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With Houston, You’ll Have a Problem

Panthers sign former 2011 third-round OLB

Scott Fitterer’s been full of pickups throughout free agency and the 2023 offseason, signing another addition to the training camp roster on August 7th. Hooked up with a one-year, $7 million contract with $6 million guaranteed, Justin Houston is ready to show what he’s got for Carolina. The 2011 third-round pick has been around as long as our beloved Cam Newton, having previously been with the Chiefs for eight seasons, then Indianapolis and Baltimore for the last four years. Throughout that period, he has racked up four Pro Bowl selections with KC, along with being a part of the All-Pro Team in 2014. As his specialty, Justin is an outstanding pass-rusher who has a great veteran background to bring to his new defense.

Houston played in 14 games for the Ravens last season, finishing out with 9.5 sacks, 14 tackles, and one forced fumble. As for his career totals, he has played in 163 games, totaling 111.5 sacks and 19 forced fumbles. He’s even had two touchdown returns back in 2015 and 2017.

“Coach Frank–it was simple…I knew as soon as he called, I told my wife we’re going to Carolina,” answered the 13-year vet on what brought him to Charlotte. “I trust him. He’s a stand-up guy. What you see is what you get…I wanted somebody I trusted.” Reich and Houston have been great friends since the two were together with the Colts from 2019-2020. Justin was able to play in 32 games for Indy, racking up 43 solo tackles and 19 sacks.

Reich speaks volumes on Houston’s impact to the roster, “He’s (Justin) a physical specimen, he’s an incredibly smart football player, (he’s) a leader, and the ultimate competitor.” Making note that his role for the defense will be as a rotational player, Coach stated he wants to make sure they get him in the right amount of snaps. With his production, he will be put in to allow Burns and Haynes to get breaks in between.

“The development of that group (defense) has been outstanding, and now to get to add Justin to that group is a big deal,” Frank added on Tuesday, the 8th. The Panthers have a lot of depth on their roster this upcoming season, loaded with talent that will be beneficial as time goes on. One guy that Justin is most looking forward to sharing the field with is, of course, number zero: Brian Burns. “I think he’s a great guy–I think he’s a leader. I love the way he practices, I love the way he works; I think I’m gonna love playing with him.” Also emphasizing his talent, Houston made it clear that “That kind of talent doesn't come around often.”

Carolina had an edge rusher on their radar during the 2023 offseason, looking for a guy, specifically a veteran, who could bump up their energy and playmaking even more. Fans speculated for a while that they could’ve been trying to reach an agreement with Yannick Ngakoue, who turned around and signed with the Chicago Bears on August 4, reaching a $10.5 million deal (with $10 million guaranteed). Meanwhile, Houston revealed his deal had been in the making with phone calls for months. It’s no surprise that the reason the Panthers had been radio silent on adding the one position was due to Fitterer’s plan all along.

Photo via CBS Sports (

Houston’s career highpoints include most recently, his 2.5 sacks during the week 9 game versus New Orleans in 2022. In 2014, he had a career high of 22 sacks with the Chiefs (being the year he was named an All-Pro). In ‘19, he had 11 sacks and 2 safeties in ‘20 with IND.

Justin officially signed with the Panthers on August 8 and popped into the last days of the 2023 training camp. He will wear number 50. Carolina held a joint practice with the New York Jets on August 9, but canceled the 10th’s due to inclement weather. Their week 1 game will be in Atlanta to open up the season along with division play.


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