Panthers pick up veteran edge rusher Justin Houston


SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Carolina Panthers finally landed a veteran edge rusher to play opposite Brian Burns in Justin Houston, even though the 34-year-old may not be an every-down player at this point in his career.

Houston and the Panthers have agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $7 million with $6 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team announced the signing Sunday but did not disclose terms.

Coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer have been saying for weeks they would continue looking for a veteran to play outside linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme. As candidates were signed by other teams, they went with Houston, who has been one of the best at his position in the 3-4.

The need increased as Marquis Haynes, who emerged out of offseason workouts as the starter opposite Burns, continued to miss practice time with a back injury.

In Haynes’ absence, Yetur Gross-Matos, Eku Leota, DJ Johnson and starting inside linebacker Frankie Luvu have been among the players rotating at outside linebacker.

But none of them has the experience that Houston does, particularly in the 3-4. The team was hopeful Johnson would emerge after it traded up in the third round of the April draft to get him, but he remains a work in progress.

Houston is a four-time Pro Bowl defender who had a resurgent season for the Baltimore Ravens in 2022. He produced 9.5 sacks, becoming the first player in team history to record three straight multisack games. But his impact diminished in the second half of the season, when he only managed a half-sack in his last seven games.

After contemplating retirement last year, Houston said after the season that he wanted to continue playing. Even without being an every-down linebacker, he can still be an effective pass-rush specialist. His 111.5 career sacks rank fifth among active players.

Houston maintains a burst off the line after 12 NFL seasons. His average pass-rush get-off was 0.75 seconds last season, fourth-quickest in the league, according to Next Gen Stats. He trailed only Brandon Graham, Nick Bosa and Haason Reddick.

Houston’s impact off the field has been just as meaningful. He repeatedly stays after practice to work on pass-rush moves with the younger outside linebackers, who nicknamed him “Yoda” and “Sensei.”

Houston played for Reich in Indianapolis in 2019-20, collecting a combined 19 sacks during those two seasons.

A third-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011, Houston has recorded a total of 506 tackles, 19 forced fumbles and 5 interceptions in his career.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.


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