Late For Work 8/2: Justin Houston Addition Makes Playoff Odds Jump; Full Reaction

DE Justin Houston

Media Reaction and Breakdown on Justin Houston Joining the Ravens

The big news this weekend was Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta finalizing a deal with pass rusher Justin Houston this weekend.

Considering it was a deal many pundits had speculated about since Houston visited in April, there was plenty of reaction.

"The addition works well for the Ravens' odds of success in 2021. A team that was listed as having a 50.2 percent chance of winning the AFC North and an 81.3 percent chance of making the playoffs -- per CBS Sports stats analyst Stephen Oh -- now sees their chances of winning the division buoy to 65.3 percent and their playoff odds move north to 83.2 percent. Their chances of winning the Super Bowl also jumped 1.5 points -- from 9.1 to 10.6 percent," wrote CBS Sports' Patrik Walker.

"In other words, yes, it's a good signing. … Houston will likely contribute immediately, and in a major way."

The Ravens' division foes surely weren't happy to see Houston land in Baltimore. The Steelers Wire's Allison Koehler wrote, "Houston, we have a problem: Edge Justin Houston to sign with Steelers rival."

Pittsburgh fans had their sights set on Houston too, but the Steelers instead inked Melvin Ingram reportedly on a one-year, $4 deal a couple weeks ago. Houston's contract is also reportedly worth up to $4 million.

"That whole part about Houston wanting to win a championship. Clearly, he believes Baltimore would provide him such an opportunity, more than Pittsburgh," Behind the Steel Curtain's Jeff Hartman wrote.

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that the Steelers had interest in Houston and that the Ravens' new addition turned down a bigger contract from an (unidentified) AFC North club.

"Throw in the fact JuJu Smith-Schuster openly turned down a more lucrative contract from the Ravens earlier this offseason, and the two AFC North rivals have had a very intertwined offseason," Hartman wrote. "Nonetheless, you can now expect the Ravens vs. Steelers games to have more juice in 2021 compared to 2020."

Since Houston visited the Ravens in April, many were curious as to why the team had not finalized a deal with the sack artist. After all, media believed one of the few weaknesses on the roster was the pass rush. According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, it was about a longstanding virtue: patience.

"Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta is the first to admit that patience has not always been one of his strengths," Zrebiec wrote. "However, he learned from his predecessor and mentor, Ozzie Newsome, that there are times when it is required. On Saturday, DeCosta's patience paid off in a big way as the Ravens reached a verbal agreement on a modest one-year deal with Houston ultimately willing to compromise and accept less money for a chance to join a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations."

That monetary difference couldn't be better noted than comparing the salary of the Ravens crop of edge rushers against what the Las Vegas Raiders are paying for Ngakoue this year.

"It's been pointed out on social media, but it bears repeating," Zrebiec wrote. "The combined salary cap numbers of McPhee, Bowser, Houston, Ferguson, Oweh and Hayes are right around $10 million. Ngakoue alone will occupy $13 million of the Las Vegas Raiders' salary cap this year. The Ravens' front office has clearly shown in recent seasons that it believes it is much wiser to spend money on its secondary than its pass rush. At outside linebacker, they've leaned heavily on the development of young players and looked for veteran bargains."

As for where Houston will impact the roster, Baltimore Beatdown's Joshua Reed believes Houston could be used best in a situational role.

"Despite recording 19 sacks over the last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, according to PFF, Houston's pressure rate dropped from nearly 14 percent in 2019 when he logged 11 sacks to a career-low 8.3 percent in 2020 when he recorded eight sacks," Reed wrote. "Yet, he still has a higher pass rush win rate from the edge on true pass sets over that span than many of the younger edge rushers who are making substantially more than he is slated to make in Baltimore even if he hits all of his incentive escalators.

"The Ravens would be wise to avoid and likely won't put too much on Houston's plate this year and employ him both strategically and judiciously instead. He'll be a member of a three-to-four-man rotation at the RUSH outside linebacker position depending on who is active on game day."

Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens "have a role for him."

Don't Forget About Odafe Oweh in Ravens Pass Rush

Though the Ravens added Houston, taking the pressure off rookie first-round pick Odafe Oweh to be an immediate big-time producer, the rookie is still looking ready to contribute.

Though full pads have yet to be worn by the Ravens in training camp, Oweh has performed admirably, especially in one-on-one drills.

Head Coach John Harbaugh noted after the M&T Bank Stadium practice that Oweh's skills are translating well, and he's interested to witness Oweh's career.

But before Oweh's NFL career begins, he decided back in April to change the name he'd go by back to his first name, Odafe. The change occurred during Oweh's first NFL presser after being drafted No. 31 overall in the 2021 NFL draft. According to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, this was spur-of-the-moment.

"Oweh's decision was just in the moment," Hensley wrote. "After becoming the 31st player selected in this year's draft, he was surrounded by his parents and all the people who supported him since childhood. They were all calling him Odafe."

The selection of Oweh was an exciting moment for not only Oweh, his family and the Ravens, but also for the fanbase. The last time the team selected an edge rusher in the first round was Terrell Suggs, and he was the only edge rusher taken in round one by the team in its history.

Once more, full pads have yet to come on and already the speed, size and agility of Oweh has been on demonstration for all to see. It's only a matter of time before Oweh is dueling against Ravens offensive linemen and preseason opponents.

Tyus Bowser Could Be the Defense's Emerging Star

In last week's LFW, it was noted both Ed Reed and Ray Lewis believe the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson can win a Super Bowl, but it takes more than just Jackson. Others need to elevate their play to be successful, and Lewis specifically cited the receivers.

But there's another position and player you should consider. According to Go Long's Tyler Dunne, it's outside linebacker Tyus Bowser.

"So even though we aren't talking about Tyus Bowser much right this second when it comes to the balance of powers in the cutthroat AFC, we absolutely should. He could be the key to the Ravens punching through because, of course, this is a defense that must deal with the likes of [quarterbacks] Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen for the foreseeable future."

It's been cited endlessly how the Ravens have a new starting tandem of outside rushers after free agent departures earlier this year. Rather than hang onto former linebackers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, the Ravens' front office opted to re-sign Bowser to a four-year contract worth $22 million.

Now, Bowser faces a prime opportunity to break through and become a leader as one of the most unique outside linebackers in the league.

"Knocking off these offenses that score at will takes a perfect balance of brain and brawn and this is a linebacker who was both excellent in coverage as this graph shows and had 14 QB hits in his back-up role last season," Dunne wrote. "A 47th overall pick in 2017, Bowser sounds like a man dying for this moment, this chance to be the face of a proud defense."

Bowser isn't taking this opportunity for granted, either. On training camp reporting day, Bowser stated he was excited for the moment and one of his main goals for the year is to become a Pro Bowler.

Quick Hits

  • J.K. Dobbins was listed as one of five players who could break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record in 2021. "How many yards Dobbins gains in 2021 will largely depend on how much the Ravens spread the wealth between him, quarterback Lamar Jackson and fellow running back Gus Edwards." [CBS Sports]
  • Ravens enter the season as Pro Football Focus' No. 4 team in the preseason power rankings.

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