The market for premium pass rushers was thin heading into free agency, which is why Jadeveon Clowney hitting the open market was such a big deal. The Seattle Seahawks didn't place the franchise tag on Clowney, thus making him available to test the open market.
Seattle didn't trade much to acquire Clowney, which is why they wouldn't take as much of a hit if he leaves (especially with a high compensatory pick coming back to the Seahawks if he signs with another team). The need for pass rushers is so great in today's NFL, which makes Clowney one of the top free agents available.
Elite pass rushers don't grow on trees, and they certainly don't hit the market at 27 years old. There will be a long line of teams willing to add Clowney to their roster if the Seahawks don't tag him. Clowney is an excellent pass rusher, one that immediately can make a good defensive line great.
Top landing spots for Clowney
The Giants have won just 12 games in the past three seasons, the farthest thing from the contender that Clowney seeks. Money does talk and the Giants have plenty to spend, as they look to improve a defense that finished just 22nd in the NFL in sacks last season (36). New York has a projected $85.7 million in cap space (factoring in the $11.8 million cap raise plus the Over The Cap projection), giving them the flexibility to give Clowney an extraordinary amount of cash to lure him to the Big Apple.
The Colts are closer to contention than the Giants are, especially after signing Philip Rivers. Clowney is very familiar with the division, having spent the first five seasons of his career with the Houston Texans. Indianapolis would be an enticing destination for Clowney, especially since he'll get the opportunity to line up opposite of Justin Houston (who finished with 11 sacks last year).
The Philadelphia Eagles are a team that should have interest in signing Clowney, especially since he fits the team's formula of signing players heading into their second contracts. Pass rushers are also vital toward the success of Jim Schwartz's defense, which the Eagles didn't get enough consistent pressure on the edge last season. The Baltimore Ravens could be in the Clowney market if they decide to trade Matthew Judon (although they are a long shot), while the Miami Dolphins were reportedly interested in Clowney last year before he was dealt to Seattle.
If Clowney wants to play for a contender, the Seahawks would be at the top of the list to re-sign him. The Eagles and Colts aren't too far behind.
*List complied in February.
Projected market value for Clowney in free agency
The price for Clowney will be high, which is typical when a player is one of the top pass rushers available. Spotrac projects Clowney would make an average annual salary of $20 million a season, which would rank third amongst defensive ends in the NFL. That price tag would certainly benefit the Giants and Colts, teams that have more than enough salary cap space that can pay Clowney that money and still have room left over to make other moves.
Would the Seahawks pay a 27-year-old Clowney $20 million a year? Especially when they are already experiencing a cap hit of $31 million for Russell Wilson and a cap hit over $10 million each for five other players? Seattle couldn't reach a long-term deal for Frank Clark after the team franchise tagged him last season and decided to trade him, making the deal for Clowney to compensate the loss of Clark. Allowing Clowney to hit the open market would raise his price tag, making it harder for the Seahawks to retain him.
If Clowney is truly serious about playing for a contender, a discount may come into effect. Perhaps Clowney decides to take $17 million a year in order to stay with Seattle or entice a team like Philadelphia or Baltimore. Indianapolis can pay Clowney as much as it takes to get him, so a discount isn't needed for that landing spot. Clowney could get the best of both worlds (contender and the money) with the Colts.
Concerns that could affect the price tag for Clowney
Is Clowney the type of player that actually deserves $20 million a season? The sack totals have never been high for talented defensive end, who has never recorded double-digit sacks in a season (career-high 9.5 in 2017). Clowney only had three sacks last season, but he was also hampered for the majority of the second half with a core muscle injury. Despite the injury, Clowney still finished with 31 tackles, four forced fumbles, 13 quarterback hits and 47 pressures in 13 games. He has also graded well by Pro Football Focus over the past two seasons, excelling against the run as his athleticism has become a disruption for running backs that head toward his gap.
Despite having just 12 sacks over the last two seasons, Clowney has 122 pressures during that same span. While the sack totals have never been high (just 32 over six seasons), Clowney has a knack for finding the football and does get to the quarterback. If teams are looking for complete edge rushers, there aren't many better than Clowney.
Projection: Five years, $95 million ($19 million AAV); $42.5 million guaranteed.
Scouting report on Clowney (Pros and Cons)
- Excellent run-stuffer
- Strong gap penetration
- Freak athlete
- Exceptional at reading screens and flat routes
- Hard hitter
- Knack for finding football and creating fumbles
- Consistent pressure rate
- Low sack rate
- Double-digit penalties in last four seasons
- Fined on several occasions for questionable hits
Clowney willing to accept 1-2 year deal and test free agent market again
April 9: Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Clowney is willing to take a one to two-year deal to "try to get his sack numbers up" and hit the market since he couldn't get the $20 million a year contract he was seeking. The short-team deal is expected to open up his market to other teams, who are unwilling to give Clowney the long-term deal he seeks.
Clowney unlikely to return to Seahawks
April 7: According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the chances are "slim to none" that Clowney re-signs with Seattle for a second season with the team. Joining Seattle's 950 KJR on Tuesday, Garafolo warned to "never say never" regarding a reunion between the two sides, but he added that the Seahawks are potentially already "moving on to Plan B, C and D" and "aren't actively chasing Clowney right now."
Browns show interest in Clowney, may have best offer yet for pass rusher
April 4: Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Browns have shown interest in Clowney and some people around the league believe Cleveland got closer with Clowney than the other suitors. Whether this gives Cleveland the inside track to land Clowney remains to be seen, but the Browns have certainly checked in on the defensive end's asking price.
Titans in contact with Clowney, but GM says "nothing is imminent"
April 1: The Titans have been in contact with Clowney's agent, although "nothing is imminent" between the two sides,. Tennessee is the latest team outside of the Seahawks to pursue Clowney.
Clowney lowers asking price from $20 million
April 1: Per ESPN's Dianna Russini, Clowney is no longer seeking the $20 million asking price he initially wanted in free agency. That number has lowered to $17-18 million, which could spark more interest from other teams. Currently, the Seahawks and Titans are the teams interested in Clowney's services.
Seahawks make offer to Clowney, interested in Everson Griffen
Seattle is awaiting Clowney's decision as he seeks an offer north of $20 million per season. Ideally Clowney would remain with the Seahawks for that amount, given the familiarity of the system and how he enjoys playing for the franchise.
Giants on wish list for Clowney
March 6: Per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the New York Giants are one of the teams on Clowney's wish list. Clowney can receive the big contract he wants with the Giants, but Vacchiano is also reporting he could be looking at a contract worth $22-23 million per year. The Giants have that money to give Clowney that type of deal, but even that contract may put him out of their price range.
"Everybody wants an elite guy," Giants head coach Joe Judge said at the combine last week. "But you have to find ways, if you don't have necessarily that one elite guy, of getting production out of maybe two to three other players that complement each other."
Giants, Colts could have interest in Clowney
February 27: Per ESPN's Josina Anderson, the in Clowney if he hits the free agent market. Clowney recently told Anderson he would "definitely like to return" to the Seahawks, but is also "open to new opportunities if it comes down to that."
Seahawks general manager John Schneider already dismissed the notion the front office would tag Clowney when he said he doesn't expect the Seahawks to use the franchise or transition tag this offseason. Schneider also said the Seahawks "would love to have Clowney back." Based on the Seahawks' unwillingness to use the tag at the moment, the franchise would seek to reach a long-term deal with Clowney if they can.
Clowney says he wants to play on a contender
January 13: Super Bowl," which is what he's looking for with his next team.he "wants to get that
"That's what I'm looking for. Who's going to get me there," Clowney said. "I'm not looking to get on no sorry team for no money. That ain't gonna fly.
"I'm not going to fight through all that just to lose 16 games and go home with my check. I hate that. That ain't what I'm doing. If I can't do that -- I'm not going to no team that can't win."