The Chicago Bears signed Yannick Ngakoue in a move that was anticipated. However, if the team did not sign Ngakoue, the thought was that Justin Houston was the next most likely option. So, it is probably not surprising to see Houston sign with the Carolina Panthers days after Ngakoue took one of the pass-rushing jobs left.
Should Chicago Bears have signed Justin Houston over Yannick Ngakoue?
Ngakoue signed for about $10.5M, while Houston signed for $6M and maybe closer to $7. So, the question will be whether or not the team could have had Houston for cheaper. Would it have been a better option?
When you look at the two, they had the same number of sacks last season. Ngakoue has been more consistent in recent years, but Houston has had more longevity throughout his career. One thing that Houston had going for him was continuity of playing for both Ryan Poles with the Chiefs and Matt Eberflus with the Colts. Despite that, both people chose against Houston.
One of the factors in favor of Ngakoue is 28 years old, while Houston is 34. Ngakoue played 733 snaps and was over 800 the year before. Justin Houston played 397 snaps last year and 577 snaps the year prior. If the team wants the workhorse, they should have signed Ngakoue.
Still, on 285 pass-rush snaps, Houston had 39 pressures and a 9.4 pass-rush productivity rating. On the flip side, Yannick Ngakoue had 44 pressures on 434 snaps, marking a 6.9 PRP. Ngakoue had a 7.1% win rate, while Houston was at 14.2%.
So, it was fewer snaps, but Houston was the better player.
What may have swung this in favor of Ngakoue will surprise people, but it may be run defense. It is not necessarily about how good he is. Ngakoue had a 3.5% run-stop rate last year, while Houston had a 4.7% rate. However, Ngakoue played 296 snaps against the run, while Houston played just 89. He was not active in the run game and had not been in years.
Houston had 255 run defense snaps in 2018. That dropped to 196 in 2019, 188 in 2020, and 160 in 2021 before dropping below 100. Meanwhile, his pass rush snaps in 2018 went from 374 snaps to 458. He has been more of a pass-rush-only player than Ngakoue, and that is the knock on Ngakoue.
So, on a per-snap basis, Justin Houston may bring more overall. However, you are getting more snaps with Ngakoue, and the ups can be worth a couple more downs on those snaps. We will see how Houston looks with the Carolina Panthers and whether or not the Chicago Bears will regret this.