Outside linebacker Justin Houston didn’t take long to win his first news conference as a Raven.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection, who on Monday signed a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, said Saturday that he picked the Ravens over a richer free-agent offer from rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I was so close to signing with the Steelers,” Houston said after his second practice in Owings Mills. “That was crazy. They were one of the teams I was considering.”
The Steelers weren’t the only AFC contender Houston was linked to. Days before he agreed to a deal with the Ravens, Houston shared photos of himself working out in a Kansas City Chiefs helmet, leading to speculation about a potential reunion. Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks during Kansas City’s 2014 season, called it an honest mistake.
“I think everybody just made assumptions,” he said. “I had to work out. I needed a helmet. That’s the only helmet I had in my house, so I put it on.”
Ultimately, the Ravens’ defensive system won Houston over. Cornerback Marcus Peters, a former Chiefs teammate, called Houston after his 2020 season with the Indianapolis Colts ended and told him that he was needed on the Ravens’ pass rush. Houston recalled Saturday that Peters called the system “perfect” for him.
Houston, 32, visited the team in April and “fell in love” with the defense, he said, though he didn’t sign until months later. He’ll be the most accomplished veteran of an edge-rush group that lost Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue this offseason.
“I just want opportunities to have one-on-ones and to be able to put pressure on the quarterback,” Houston said. “I think this was the best scheme for me and what I was looking for.”
Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Wednesday that Houston is flexible enough to line up at a number of positions, “so that’s going to be fun.” Houston didn’t elaborate on how he might be used, but he was convinced it would work out.
“I just think they’re going to maximize it,” he said. “They’re going to see on film from what I showed at practice, what I’m good at, and I think they’re going to put me in a position where I can maximize my talent. If any football player knows football, if you know defense, that’s what you want to do.”