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Late for Work 7/7: Why a Justin Houston Reunion Makes Sense

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Pundit Says Another Reunion With Justin Houston Would Make Sense

Exactly one year ago today, the Ravens re-signed outside linebacker Justin Houston to a one-year deal. It was the second summer in a row that Baltimore landed the four-time Pro Bowler.

The Ravens again could use a proven veteran at the position, and Houston is still available. Could another reunion be in the works?

The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer said that even at age 34, Houston still has plenty to offer, especially with the Ravens, whose outside linebacker corps is led by Tyus Bowser and promising youngsters Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo. Houston led the Ravens in sacks (9.5) and quarterback pressures (39) last season.

"He projects as more than just a valuable rotational player. He could also be the best pure pass rusher on the Ravens' 2023 roster," Shaffer wrote. "Houston was a runaway No. 1 last year, even after a second-half drop-off. According to Pro Football Focus, he led the Ravens in overall pass-rush win rate (16.3%) and in win rate on 'true pass sets' (19.9%), a sample that excludes plays with play-action passes, screens, short drop-backs, a time to throw of less than two seconds or fewer than four pass rushers.

"Among all edge rushers with at least 250 pass-rush snaps last season, Houston ranked 14th in overall win rate, ahead of stars such as the Las Vegas Raiders' Maxx Crosby and Buffalo Bills' Von Miller. Even more impressive was how often he converted those wins into sacks. Houston had a sack on 3.1% of his pass-rush snaps, or about one for every 32 snaps, a mark that compares favorably with the NFL's most productive edge rushers from last season."

If the Ravens want Houston back, they should have the means to make it happen. Spotrac.com calculated Houston's market value to be $5.3 million per year. Baltimore has approximately $9.9 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.

"[General Manager Eric] DeCosta has embraced more creative accounting this offseason, most notably the use of void years," Shaffer wrote. "Houston might even be amenable to a discount; he turned down a more lucrative offer from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021 to sign with the Ravens, and he said after last season that he'd 'like to be back' in Baltimore, where playoff appearances have become expected and a Super Bowl run this season is possible."

What Are Realistic Expectations for the 2023 Ravens?

While additions such as Houston could still be made, the Ravens have already assembled what on paper looks to be a Super Bowl contender. So, will anything short of the franchise's third Lombardi Trophy be a letdown?

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec doesn't see it that way.

"I highly doubt [owner Steve] Bisciotti is thinking, 'OK, if we don't win the Super Bowl this year, heads will roll,'" Zrebiec wrote. "So much goes into making a run. I started covering the Ravens during the 2011 season, and I'd probably say the 2012 team, which won the Super Bowl, was probably the third-best Ravens team I've covered. I think you could make the case that the 2011 and 2019 squads, maybe even 2014, all looked like better teams for much of their respective seasons.

"My point in bringing that up is you just never know how things will fall into place. That's why I'm always reluctant to adhere to the 'Super Bowl or bust' mindset."

So what would constitute a successful season for the Ravens?

"This team has won what, two playoff games over the past 10 seasons? We'll see how the regular season plays out, but for me, it would be hard not to view a run to the AFC title game as a step forward in certain cases," Zrebiec wrote.

Ravens Extending Lamar Jackson Ranked Second-Biggest Offseason Move

CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan ranked the 10 biggest moves of the offseason, and the Ravens signing Lamar Jackson to a contract extension came in at No. 2.

"This is a more unique angle we're taking with Jackson's situation because there are multiple layers," Sullivan wrote. "It's as much about how it COULD have impacted the 2023 season as how it still will. Had he and the Ravens not been able to come to terms on an extension, you would've had a Baltimore franchise in complete disarray and possibly even forced to trade its franchise quarterback, turning the league on its head. That would have likely sent Baltimore to the bottom of the barrel and brought one obscure team to relevancy overnight.

"Given Jackson's MVP-caliber talent, him possibly landing in a different situation would have completely changed how we're viewing the 2023 season. That 'What if?' scenario alone has him near the top of this list."

The Ravens landing three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. did not make the list, although a case can be made that it should have. The New York Jets signing Aaron Rodgers took the top spot.

Todd Monken Is the X-Factor for Ravens Offense

CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin named one offensive X-factor for every team. For the Ravens, it wasn't a player, it was new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken.

"Monken is charged with opening up and modernizing the passing-game concepts to complement the diverse, efficient run game the Ravens have built since Lamar Jackson assumed the starting job," Dubin wrote. "He'll have help in the form of Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and Zay Flowers joining the receiving corps, but the concepts need to put Jackson in far better position to succeed than the ones that the Ravens have been utilizing over the past few years. And that's on Monken."

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