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49ers Need to Sign Justin Houston

Levin T. Black
Mar 10, 2019 at 9:24 PM1


There's no question the San Francisco 49ers pass rush from the edge has been a problem. GM John Lynch should sign recently released linebacker Justin Houston to solve that problem.

To be clear, Houston should be the first step in solving the problem with the second step coming in the draft next month. Houston was officially released by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. They chose that route rather than paying him the $15.25 million base salary he was due.

Of course the Chiefs attempted to trade Houston prior to releasing him. The 30-year-old isn't quite the same player he was when he came within a half sack of the single season record in 2014 with 22. No team was going to give up a draft pick just to pay him like he is still the player he was when he signed a then NFL record contract for a defensive player following that 2014 season (6 years, $101 million). That doesn't mean he isn't still a very good veteran.

Houston had 9 sacks last season in just 12 games. He had 9.5 in 2017 in 15 games. That's 18.5 total sacks in 27 games to go with a total of 32 hits on the quarterback according to Pro Football Reference. Last season he also had 8 tackles for a loss in 12 games. If he had played all 16 games at that rate he would have ranked sixth among defenders who primarily play linebacker.

It gets better. In 2018 he had five forced fumbles. That's the fifth most in the league. It's one more than Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, one more than Von Miller and two more than Frank Clark and Trey Flowers. He also had the sixth fastest sack in the NFL last season according to Next Gen Stats. His speed isn't completely gone.

I provide all these stats to preface saying this, Houston is not an Elvis Dumervil situation. Dumervil was 33-years-old when he played for the 49ers in 2017. At that point in his career he was only a pass specialist. Houston is still capable of playing all downs.

Cost will be a factor. He is good enough to still command a hefty payday. Probably not as big of one as Houston's agent is hoping for. A pass rusher on the wrong side of 30 who has already shown some decline and injury issues just won't get huge money. Still it won't be cheap. Khalil Mack got $23.5 million average per year. Pass rushers may be the second most expensive behind only quarterbacks. The 49ers should pony up what it takes.

The 49ers should offer something along of the lines of four years, $45 million. It sounds like a lot. It's less than half Mack's average and NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. Guarantee $25 million of it and structure it to be paid in the first two years. That makes it essentially a two year, $25 million deal with team options for each of the final two seasons at $10 million a piece.

The move would give the 49ers an ideal veteran pass rusher to pair with a top draft pick. If age starts taking its toll, the 49ers can cut ties after two seasons.

The 49ers have been criticized for not making the big move when the opportunity presents itself. It's time for Lynch to spend the money and shift the franchise into win mode. Pass rush should be the first priority.

Just imagine Houston at outside linebacker with someone like Nick Bosa in front of him at defensive end. Pass rush problem solved.
  • Levin T. Black
  • Written by:
    A graduate of Ball State University in 2009, Levin was an award winning sports journalist until he transitioned into a different career. He's written for Webzone since 2018.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • Greg
    Can’t they just claim him off waivers?
    Mar 10, 2019 at 10:16 PM
    0

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