Indianapolis Colts' 2019 free-agent signings: Justin Houston bolsters pass rush

The Chiefs agreed to terms linebacker Justin Houston on a two-year, $24 million contract. Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

A breakdown of the Indianapolis Colts' 2019 free-agent signings.

Justin Houston, defensive end

The Colts have agreed to a two-year deal worth $24 million with Houston, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Here’s a closer look at the defensive end who spent the previous eight seasons with the Chiefs:

What it means: The Colts have landed their best pass-rush threat since Robert Mathis had 19.5 sacks in 2013. Houston has 78.5 sacks in his career. He’ll help a defense that finished tied for 19th the NFL in sacks last season with 38 while not having a legitimate pass-rusher. Houston’s best season was in 2014 when he had 22 sacks.

What's the risk? Houston turned 30 years old in January and hasn’t had a double-digit sack season since 2014. Houston has played in all 16 games in a season only three times in his career. Houston will have to transition from playing outside linebacker in Kansas City to defensive end with the Colts because Indianapolis runs a 4-3 defense.


Devin Funchess, wide receiver

The Colts agreed to one-year deal worth up to $13 million with receiver Devin Funchess on Monday, according to reporting by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Here’s a closer look at the receiver who spent the previous four seasons with the Carolina Panthers:

What it means: The Colts made it no secret that they needed to find T.Y. Hilton some help at receiver. “We just don’t want people rolling the coverage to T.Y.,” coach Frank Reich said. “Having somebody to complement him, who can make big plays down the field, I think, would help.” Funchess, who only missed three games and had 21 touchdown receptions during his four seasons with the Panthers, will get his shot at being the No. 2 receiver in Indianapolis. He also will give quarterback Andrew Luck another big target in the red zone. Tight end Eric Ebron was Luck’s primary red zone target last season.

What's the risk? This is more like a prove-it deal for Funchess, because it’s only for one year. Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s preference during free agency has been to acquire players who are still young and haven’t fully tapped their potential. It worked with Ebron last season, and the Colts hope the same will happen with Funchess in 2019.


Pierre Desir, cornerback

The Colts agreed to a contract extension with Desir on a three-year, $25 million contract that includes $12 million guaranteed . Here’s a closer look at the receiver who spent the previous two seasons with the Colts:

What it means: The Colts, who finished a surprising 11th in total defense last season, will have their top three cornerbacks back in Desir, Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson next season. Desir went from having the Colts claim him off waivers in 2017 to being their top cornerback last season. He started just seven games through his first three seasons in the NFL with the Browns and Chargers. After having his 2017 season cut short because of a shoulder injury, Desir cemented himself as the team’s top cornerback with two impressive performances against Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins (nine catches for 73 yards) in the final regular-season game and in the playoff game between the two teams.

What’s the risk: This was an easy decision because Ballard has put a premium on keeping the Colts' own players instead of going out and chasing free agents on the open market.


Clayton Geathers, safety

The Colts agreed to a one-year deal with Geathers on March 20. Here’s a closer look at the safety who spent the previous four seasons with the Colts:

What it means: The Colts took a low-risk approach by agreeing to only a one-year deal with Geathers. A healthy Geathers means they’ll have their starting safeties back with him and Malik Hooker. Geathers’ athleticism allows defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to be more creative in coverage. Geathers is fast enough to defend tight ends in the passing game and he’s strong enough to play a hybrid linebacker down in the box against the run.

What’s the risk: Can the Colts rely on Geathers? That’s the biggest question. He missed 23 games to injury during his four seasons with the Colts. A neck injury suffered against Tennessee late in the 2016 season caused Geathers to be sidelined for 11 months. The Colts need to take another step defensively after finishing 11th overall last season. They’ll need Geathers to remain healthy in order for that to happen.