The Indianapolis Colts are picking up a major pass rusher for the 2019 season.
The Colts have signed Justin Houston to a two-year deal worth $24 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Houston was released by the Kansas City Chiefs in a cost-cutting move and had taken his time to find a new team. Though he’s been limited by injuries and hasn’t come close to his 22-sack season of 2014, he’s still an effective pass-rusher.
Houston had nine sacks in 12 games last season and 9.5 the year before. He also forced five fumbles and had an interception last season.
This is a big pickup for the Colts.
After the initial rush of NFL free agency, it turns out there are still plenty of good players available. Sure, they all have flaws, be it age, a part of their game that’s not quite as prominent as teams would like it to be, or an extensive injury history that has teams questioning whether they can stay on the field. But all of these players have had success at the NFL level and can be key contributors in the right situation if they stay healthy and find the right fit.
Here are ten NFL free agents who rank as the best still available.
10) Darqueze Dennard, CB
A slot corner turned starter for Cincinnati last season, Dennard grew into his role in the Bengals’ secondary during his time with the team. Ultimately, his financial demands forced the pair to go their separate ways this offseason. The slot corner market has been robust, and Dennard figures to play heavily into it. There are injury concerns here — Dennard has just one 16-game season to his name in his NFL career thus far — but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a worthwhile investment for someone.
Another former Pro Bowler is hitting the free agent market.
The Kansas City Chiefs are releasing linebacker Justin Houston, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, after they tried and failed to move his $15.25 million base salary via trade. The move will save the Chiefs $14 million against the cap in 2019.
Houston had openly been on the market for a while, and it was no secret that the Chiefs were looking to move on from him and his contract one way or another. The 30-year-old has never quite reached the same heights he did in 2014 when he had a league-leading 22 sacks, but he has still posted 18.5 sacks over his last two years. He’ll be free to land with any team.
The Kansas City Chiefs are reportedly looking to part ways with Justin Houston, but any talk that they have released the star linebacker is premature.
A report on Monday claimed the Chiefs have informed Houston he is being cut, but Tom Pelissero of NFL Network says that is not the case. Rather, Kansas City is still trying to find a trade partner for the 30-year-old.
As Pelissero noted, several defensive linemen and pass-rushers were hit with the franchise tag on Monday. They include Frank Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence and Jadeveon Clowney. Pass-rushers are now at a serious premium this offseason, so it would be somewhat surprising if the Chiefs can’t find a way to trade Houston.
Houston has two years left on the six-year, $101 million deal he signed with the Chiefs, but he recorded nine sacks and five forced fumbles in just 12 games last season. While he’s clearly still capable of being an impact player, Kansas City probably doesn’t want to take on his $21.1 million salary cap hit for 2019. Releasing Houston would cost $7.1 million against the cap.
The Kansas City Chiefs are open to trading Justin Houston, according to reports.
Both CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora and NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport have said the Chiefs have engaged in trade talks surrounding Houston.
Houston, 30, has two years left on the 6-year, $101 million deal he signed with Kansas City. Though he had nine sacks last season and remains an effective pass rusher, his contract could be a barrier. Houston has a $21.1 million cap hit for the upcoming season.
If KC cannot trade him, they could cut the pass rusher and take the $7.1 million cap hit.
Through the first six weeks of the NFL season, several popular names still lead the fray when it comes to defensive production. However, key injuries to superstars like J.J. Watt have created a void that has been filled by some surprising players, many of whom are having career years.
Here’s a look at each NFL team’s best defensive player so far in 2017.
Arizona Cardinals — Tyvon Branch, S
There are a lot of talented defenders on Arizona’s roster, but through six weeks, it’s hard to argue that Tyvon Branch — who has been called a “wolverine” complement to the “honey badger” — isn’t the very best. He not only leads the team and is tied for the league lead with 55 tackles, but he’s also defended four passes, forced a fumble and was named to the Pro Football Focus First Quarter All-Pro Team. Branch getting the nod says a lot about his impact this season when you consider Arizona also has Chandler Jones and his six sacks.
Atlanta Falcons — Deion Jones, LB
Deion Jones has filled out the box score this year, leading the Falcons with 38 tackles. He’s also recorded a sack, three passes defended and an interception. Jones is also among Pro Football Focus’ top 15 graded linebackers this season, alongside teammate De’Vondre Campbell, who has also landed very high grades for Atlanta. Jones is blossoming well for Atlanta in his second NFL season.
NFL contracts are often a hot-button issue. People love to debate who’s making too much, too little, who deserves more and who is overpaid. Some athletes outplay their deals, while others cash in and fail to deliver. Teams obviously try hard to avoid the latter situation, but sometimes things don’t work out as hoped.
With all of that in mind, here’s a look at the worst contract on every NFL team.
Arizona Cardinals – Jermaine Gresham, tight end
The Cardinals put an emphasis on re-signing tight end Jermaine Gresham and as a result, may have drastically over-paid for him. He hasn’t had over 460 yards receiving since 2012, has seen his catch rate hover around 60% in each of the previous two seasons and hasn’t scored more than two touchdowns since 2014. Those are mediocre numbers at best for a player signed to a four-year, $28 million contract with $16.5 million guaranteed.
Atlanta Falcons – Brooks Reed, defensive end
Brooks Reed is not exactly a bad player — he’s a high-motor guy who plays a very defined role. Of course, when the Falcons signed him to a five-year, $22 million deal in 2015 they expected much more. Instead, what they’ve gotten for $9 million guaranteed is 42 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in 28 games.
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco, quarterback
When the Ravens signed Joe Flacco to a monstrous $120.6 million deal in 2013, many foresaw potential issues looming. However, at the time, Flacco was coming off of a magical postseason run that culminated with a Super Bowl XLVII victory. He had earned his money. But in 2016, facing a massive cap number, Baltimore was forced to extend Flacco with a three-year, $66.4 million deal. Now under contract through 2021, Flacco has cap hits above $24 million beginning next year and throughout the remainder of his deal, large dead cap numbers that render him uncuttable and guarantees that make him untradeable. Arguably, it’s the worst contract in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs fans already have to be happy about the team’s 7-2 start to the season, but they will be downright thrilled about the latest news regarding Justin Houston.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Houston will be active in Week 11 and make his season debut:
Houston underwent ACL surgery in February and began the season on the PUP list. He only played in 11 regular season games last year after having knee trouble, and he hasn’t played yet this season.
When healthy, Houston is a devastating force on defense. The 27-year-old linebacker has 56 sacks in 70 career games, including a career-best 22 in 2014.
The Chiefs have 18 sacks on the season and enter Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay on a five-game winning streak.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee back in November, but it turns out the injury was much more serious than that.
The Chiefs revealed on Tuesday, via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that Houston underwent ACL surgery last month. The star pass rusher was having a knee scope when world renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews determined that his ACL was not functioning properly, though not torn.
Houston had surgery on Feb. 16 and was given a recovery timeline of 6-12 months. That means he could return as soon as August or miss the entire 2016 season.
“We’re hoping, just because of his work ethic and he’s been a fast healer in the past, we’re hoping that’s not the case, that he’ll be able to play this season,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “When and where that is, it’s just too early to tell.”
Houston recorded 7.5 sacks last season after tallying a whopping 22 in 2014. It goes without saying that losing him for any amount of time would be a major blow for the Chiefs.
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