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Late for Work 7/16: Update on Justin Houston's Free Agency Status

DE Justin Houston

Jason La Canfora: Justin Houston 'Will Sign With the Right Team, at the Right Time'

A number of pundits have predicted that the Ravens will sign free-agent edge rusher Justin Houston, who reportedly visited the team in April. However, the four-time Pro Bowler is still unsigned.

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweeted that Houston is waiting for the right offer.

"Justin Houston will play in 2021, with the right team, at the right time," La Canfora wrote. "He's turned down some recent offers and at least four teams have reached out in the last few days as interest heats up ahead of camp. He'll weigh what's best for him as teams continue to make overtures."

The Ravens lost edge rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency this offseason and are lacking a proven veteran edge rusher such as Houston.

Earlier this week, NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund wrote that the Atlanta Falcons are the best fit for Houston. She had fellow free-agent outside linebacker Melvin Ingram going to the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Next Gen Stats show that Houston posted an 11.7 pressure percentage on third down last season, ranking 25th among 62 players with at least 100 third-down rushes," Frelund wrote. "This stuff is key when it comes to my pairing of Houston with the Falcons, who only pressured opposing QBs on 31.1 percent of third-down dropbacks in 2020 (ranking 22nd, per NGS)."

Marlon Humphrey Omitted From Jalen Ramsey's Top 5 Cornerbacks List

Marlon Humphrey was ranked as the No. 2 cornerback in the NFL in a recent ESPN survey of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players, and he's also been among the top two or three on other such lists.

However, when Los Angeles Rams All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is regarded by many as the standard bearer at the position, was asked to name his top 5 cornerbacks, Humphrey was not one of them.

Ramsey, understandably, put himself on the list. Then he rattled off the names of four cornerbacks he admired and would like to share a defensive backfield with.

"Everybody's got their different styles so my top five, off my opinion and my style, like, who I like to watch and even who I would like to team up with if I had the chance: New England’s] Stephon Gilmore, I like his style; Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills; I’ll go [Miami’s] Xavien Howard. And I’ll go Jaire Alexander, Green Bay,” Ramsey said on the [“Million Dollaz Worth of Game” podcast.

A number of people reacted to the omission of Humphrey by posting comments and GIFs on Twitter.

To be fair, Ramsey did acknowledge that there are more than five outstanding corners.

"This is tough, too, because I've got a lot of respect for a lot of DBs because it ain't really me against them. It's me against the receiver, so I've got a lot of respect for them," Ramsey said.

To Ramsey's point, there are a lot of talented cornerbacks in the league. And these lists are subjective, of course. But the case for Humphrey to be on any top 5 cornerbacks list is strong.

Humphrey, a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, forced a league-high eight fumbles last season and ranked fourth in the NFL with 6.4 yards allowed per target as the nearest defender, per Next Gen Stats.

In addition to coming in at No. 2 in the ESPN survey, Humphrey was second in’s Bucky Brooks’ rankings, and No. 3 on Pro Football Focus’ list. Ramsey was ranked No. 1 by ESPN and Brooks, and No. 2 by PFF (behind Alexander).

Here's what PFF's Ben Linsey wrote about Humphrey: "Humphrey's seamless inside-outside versatility is a big reason why he ranks so highly here. The fifth-year cornerback out of Alabama has recorded at least 800 coverage snaps in the slot and out wide throughout his NFL career. He also ranks in at least the 87th percentile in coverage grades at both alignments. The most impressive part is that it all comes in a man-heavy Baltimore defense — few cornerbacks in the league possess that kind of ability."

By the way, the Ravens will see the Rams and Ramsey in Week 17. The last time the teams met, in 2019, Lamar Jackson threw five touchdown passes in a 45-6 victory.

Pundits Have Either Ravens or Browns Winning AFC North

Predictions for the 2021 NFL standings are starting to come out. The prevailing opinion is that the AFC North will be won by either the Ravens or Cleveland Browns.

Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd isn't making the bold prediction of the Ravens going 16-0 like he did last year, but he does have them winning the division with an 11-6 record, one game ahead of the Browns.

"I took Baltimore over Cleveland for a couple of reasons," Cowherd said. "One, Baltimore has a quarterback who has won 80 percent of his games. He keeps getting better every year. I feel the Ravens were a really good team that just added pieces that fit in seamlessly.

"With Cleveland, I'm a little worried that the movie poster ⁠— [Odell Beckham Jr.], [Jadeveon] Clowney ⁠— is better than the movie itself."

Two of Bleacher Report’s NFL writers picked the Browns to win the division, while one went with the Ravens.

"The Ravens still have the division's most dangerous quarterback, Lamar Jackson," Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon wrote. "But Cleveland is the much better all-around team now, and there's little reason to believe [Baker] Mayfield won't continue to ascend."

Gagnon's colleague, Gary Davenport, isn't ready to crown the Browns just yet.

"The Browns are the best team in the division on paper," Davenport wrote. "The Steelers are being counted out because of their horrendous offensive line. The Cincinnati Bengals are, well, the Bengals. Meanwhile, the Ravens have been to the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and are just two years removed from a 14-2 season. Ravens win the North, with the Browns hot on their heels."

J.K. Dobbins Makes PFF's List of 2021 Offensive Breakout Players

It was surprising that J.K. Dobbins wasn't ranked higher than 26th in PFF's running back rankings a couple months ago, but he did make PFF’s list of offensive breakout players for this season.

"Baltimore's J.K. Dobbins was good as a rookie but should be great as a sophomore," PFF said. "Dobbins broke 26 tackles on 134 attempts and had a PFF rushing grade of 81.6. The Ravens have made strides to improve the blocking up front and also the potency of their passing game. So Dobbins in Year 2 could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of those moves.

"With Lamar Jackson still one of the most terrifying offensive threats in the game, Dobbins will be the player exploiting the gaps that creates and putting up huge numbers."

Dobbins led all NFL running backs with 6.0 yards per carry last season and ran for touchdowns in seven straight games, including the playoffs. This season, he is expected to be more involved in the passing game as well.

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