USA Today

Pro Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney spent nearly six months on the open market, but the decision on which team he would sign with came down literally to just a couple of hours. The former No. 1 overall pick ended up signing a one-year, $12 million deal with the Tennessee Titans this weekend, but they were not the only team vying for his services. The New Orleans Saints were very much interested in acquiring Clowney, and apparently they were willing to try almost anything. According to a report from the NFL Network, the Saints tried to arrange a unique sign-and-trade deal that would have bypassed salary cap constraints to secure Clowney.

The Saints could not match the Titans' offer -- which was a deal that could end up being $15 million with incentives -- but that didn't mean they were necessarily out of the running. The Saints inquired the services of an unnamed team with ample cap space (NFL Network names the Cleveland Browns as a possibility) to work out a deal in order to bring Clowney to New Orleans. In this hypothetical, the unnamed team would have signed Clowney to a one-year, $15 million contract and paid him a $5 million signing bonus. Then they would have traded Clowney to the Saints, who would have sent back a second-round pick as well as a player to help New Orleans' cap situation. The Saints then would have had Clowney on what was technically a $10 million contract. 

So what problem did the Saints run into? The teams reportedly got word late on Saturday that the league was unlikely to approve this kind of deal. There have been instances where teams have in reality paid cash for picks such as in Brock Osweiler's situation several years ago, but NFL.com spoke with several executives from different NFL teams that said they couldn't recall any other team executing such a deal involving specifically a free agent. 

In the end, the money plus Clowney's familiarity with head coach Mike Vrabel along with other assistant coaches won out, and the former Houston Texans star is now headed back to the AFC South.