ATL News / Sports

Could the Falcons make a splash in free agency by signing Justin Houston?

The Falcons begin rookie minicamp this weekend, but the free agency market is still buzzing. Despite wrapping up last month’s draft, Terry Fontenot is still busy tweaking the roster. Atlanta signed veteran free agent linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski on Thursday. It should be a relatively team-friendly deal, but the former Bear could have some company soon.

The free agent market is still flooded with talented players, especially at positions of need for the Falcons. Thanks to a recent contract extension with Grady Jarrett, the Falcons created nearly $11 million in cap space. Now, with a bit of money to spare, Fontenot is looking to improve any area of the roster. And which better unit to upgrade than the pass rushers. This continues a series where I’ll highlight a handful of available free agents that could dramatically improve the team. Below are the prior articles.

Houston has been a pass rushing mercenary in his twilight years. After eight excellent seasons in Kansas City that included four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection, he signed with the Colts, where he played the subsequent two seasons. Then, most recently, the former Georgia Bulldog played for the Ravens.

In Baltimore, Houston had 34 tackles, 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. While his sack total has decreased in recent years, he can still pressure opposing quarterbacks in a rotational role. The scheme fit would be seamless for Atlanta, who is in desperate need of players who can consistently get after the passer. Houston would round out a decent EDGE unit if the Falcons did pursue him, which includes Lorenzo Carter, Justin Houston, Ade Ogundeji, Arnold Ebiketie, and DeAngelo Malone.

Interestingly enough, the Falcons might not even be able to land the veteran pass rusher. Although he hasn’t found a place to play in 2022, Houston may end up back in Baltimore if it remains the case in late July.

The Ravens placed an unrestricted free agent tender on Houston, which means Baltimore will have exclusive negotiating rights with him if he’s not signed by July 22. If that does happen, Houston will earn 110% of his 2021 salary, which was $2.075 million. If he does sign with another team, the tender means he’ll still count in the formula to determine compensatory draft picks.

Regardless, the Falcons desperately need proven pass rushers. Even though the personnel is much improved from 2021, they are still boasting a bottom-ten pass rush unit at best. They were last in sacks by a country mile a year ago, and Houston would go a long way in mitigating atrocity.

Photographer: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

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