Cornerback was seen as the Jacksonville Jaguars' biggest need early in the offseason but pass rush has taken its place at the top of the list ahead of training camp. To address it, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus suggests the Jags go after outside linebacker Justin Houston, who remains unsigned.
Spielberger drew up a list of one player each NFL team should sign in the upcoming weeks and believes Houston would be a good addition to Jacksonville's pass rush, pointing out that he's still highly effective despite the fact that he's 34 years young.
"Houston's 18.4% pass-rush win rate and 14.6% pressure percentage in 2022 were both top-25 marks among edge defenders, and he managed to add 9.5 sacks to his total, which brings him to 111.5 for his career, a top-40 mark all time. For a team looking for a menace on passing downs, Houston is still that guy entering his age-34 season."
A third-round pick in the 2011 draft, Houston showed in 2022 that he's still got some football left on him, registering 9.5 sacks and one interception. On the other hand, he's no longer suited for a featured role but can excel in a rotational role. Since 2019, the four-time Pro Bowl nod hasn't played more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps in a season and he appeared in 44 percent last year.
From the outside looking, it's hard to tell what Houston's salary demands are but Frank Clark and Leonard Floyd signed one-year deals worth less than $8 million each, so the Jaguars would most likely be able to afford Houston if wanted to bring him in.
Why it makes sense for the Jaguars to sign Justin Houston
The Jags were reportedly setting their sights on Yannick Ngakoue before the draft but they weren't sure they could fit him in their budget and more importantly, it was uncertain if he would be willing to accept a rotation role in Jacksonville.
Ngakoue remains unsigned, and the Jaguars could still kick the tires on him if they wish. However, Houston could make more sense, not only from a financial standpoint but from a scheme point of view. Travon Walker and Josh Allen are projected to have feature roles, so Houston wouldn't get extended playing time. Then again, the team's brass need to replace Arden Key's production last year. Arden Key appeared in 41 percent of the Jags defensive snaps, and that's more or less the amount Houston would play.
Having said that, the Jaguars also want to see what they have in their younger players before they look for outside help. Rookies Yasir Abdullah and Tyler Lacy could end up impressing in training camp and if either one does, the need to sign a pass rusher would decrease considerably.
There's also Dawuane Smoot, who's recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered near the end of the 2022 season. While there are currently no reports about a potential signing, the Jaguars are surely open to a reunion with the former Illinois Fighting Illini.
The bottom line is that Houston would be a solid addition to the Jacksonville Jaguars' pass rush rotation but they don't seem to be in a rush to add someone until training camp. That doesn't mean they shouldn't though.