The Baltimore Ravens have a pass-rush problem in 2022, and re-signing veteran Justin Houston does little to alleviate the issue.
In the long term, the Ravens may be able to boast an elite outside linebacker unit with Odafe Oweh, Daelin Hayes, and David Ojabo taking the reins as the AFC North’s most feared pass-rushing trio.
Oweh and Hayes still have rough edges to smooth out and Ojabo’s healthy recovery is no simple guarantee, but those three could serve as the basis of the Ravens’ pass-rushing unit for years to come.
In the short term, though, Baltimore risks sinking back into last year’s abysmal edge-rush rut that saw the team finish with the league’s ninth-worst pressure rate (23 percent), a number considered worse when you factor in then-defensive coordinator Don Martindale’s blitz-heavy defense.
After taking just one injured pass-rusher in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Ravens may look to fortify the unit by bringing back veteran Justin Houston and have reportedly applied the unrestricted free agent tender on him.
Houston was a bargain-value addition in 2021, and he proves to be yet another cheap option this year — but “cheap” shouldn’t be what the Ravens are looking for in 2022.
The Ravens must explore other avenues to boost pass-rush unit in 2022
To Baltimore’s credit, the team tried to sign reinforcements like Za’Darius Smith in free agency and their efforts just didn’t pan out.
The return of Calais Campbell in the D-line should maintain consistency in an aging Ravens D-line, but even then the team’s defensive linemen generated just 4.5 total sacks on the year.
Heading into the 2022 season, the Ravens can easily justify bringing Justin Houston back into the fold: Houston comes as a cheap price, is already familiar with the defensive scheme, and adds experience to a relatively young group.
Houston started 15 games for Baltimore in 2021 and has 102 career sacks to his name, and any team would benefit from a seasoned vet like him.
But Houston also finished just third on the team in sacks last season with 4.5, ranked below even 2021 rookie Odafe Oweh. Houston fits in as a superb rotational piece given his know-how and veteran leadership, but he can’t be counted on to turn a below-average pass-rushing unit into an elite one.
With 2021 sack leader Tyus Bowser recovering from injury, the Ravens need to find an established and proven talent to keep the youngsters like Oweh and Hayes in check. Houston doesn’t cut it; neither does Jaylon Ferguson.
To be clear, re-signing Houston isn’t a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be seen as an end-all solution to the Ravens’ ongoing pass-rush woes.
There’s still plenty of time before the start of the season, and we trust Eric DeCosta and the front office to do the sensible thing.