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Justin Houston pegged a free agent target for Bengals

Houston could help improve Cincinnati’s pass rush, especially if Carl Lawson departs.

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have work to do this offseason.

Both of their lines could use help, and while it’s easy to say the team’s offensive line is the most pressing matter, adding talent after Carlos Dunlap was traded and Geno Atkins’ snap count was drastically reduced will be important.

The first and foremost part will be retaining the talent they do have, and with Carl Lawson an upcoming free agent, bringing him back will be crucial. On top of re-signing Lawson, the Bengals must bring in more help.

Considering they ranked dead last in sacks per game at just 1.1, Cincinnati must be better at getting to the opposing quarterback.

With the sixth-most cap space in the league and their franchise quarterback on the roster, the Bengals will have the ability to bring in a top-tier free agent to help create a greater presence on the edge.

That said, one player Pro Football Focus is suggesting the Bengals sign is the Indianapolis Colts’ Justin Houston. The Colts will likely be allotting some of their second-most cap space to bringing in a talented quarterback, giving Cincinnati a potential opening to get Houston.

“Houston still flashes his ability, as he can get offensive tackles off-balanced with his length and good technique, but the days of accumulating 50-plus pressures in a season appear to be in the past. Even in the run game, Houston took a step back in 2020. On the other hand, Houston is just one year removed from an 87.1 overall grade while playing just over 40 plays per game, and he may have something to offer in a rotational role,” Pro Football Focus wrote.

This was part of their predictions on the top 15 free agents. They wrote that the Bengals may offer a two-year, $18 million contract to the former Pro Bowl defensive end. Houston had a solid 2020 campaign. He totaled 8.0 sacks. He also notched 25 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss, and 12 quarterback hits. He oddly also had two safeties, tied for the most in the league.

That said, the 32-year-old clearly has some gas left in the tank. A line that features Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, Houston, and Lawson could be among the best in the AFC, but given Houston’s age, I also wouldn’t rule out the team drafting a defensive end as well.