The Texans placed the franchise tag on Clowney, who amassed 21 quarterback hits and nine sacks last season. Per Wilson, the five-year veteran has not signed his tender.
Clowney will not take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, either. Per Wilson, the ex-South Carolina Gamecock's absence "isn't an unexpected development and is regarded as standard procedure" for players who don't sign their tenders.
Per Wilson, the NFL collective bargaining agreement dictates that teams have until July 15 to sign their tagged players to long-term deals. If the deadline passes without a contract, then the tagged player must take the field on his one-year tender.
Clowney could hypothetically hold out, but that decision would be expensive. Per Wilson, the edge-rusher would lose $939,235 per game.
The Texans' problem is that retaining Clowney won't be cheap.
Over the Cap founder Jason Fitzgerald contributed to a Pro Football Focus piece predicting the top 10 most expensive free agents of the 2019 offseason. Clowney was No. 1 thanks to a six-year, $135 million deal ($85 million guaranteed).
Fitzgerald wrote the following:
“Clowney has basically every soft factor going for him when it comes to earning a big salary as a free agent. His status as a former number 1 draft pick generally puts him in a class by himself. While we can argue statistics and production versus the rest of the edge rushers, his draft grade likely means that there is strong support on 32 teams that he is the best player available and by a wide margin…
"The only downside for Clowney is that it is likely he will be franchise tagged, which always limits the market for a player. The Texans have ample cap room to carry a one-year deal with a big cap number and won’t be in any rush to negotiate that contract. Still, at the end of the cycle, he should be one of the highest-paid rushers in the NFL unless he decides to quickly sign a contract before the other players have an opportunity to set the market.”
Still, Clowney could be worth it. Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 2 among edge-rushers in run defense and noted he's steadily improved over the past few seasons:
It also helps that Clowney is happy in Houston and wants "to be here for the rest of my career," per Wilson.
"Of course, I want to come back," Clowney said. "I promise to the Texans and whoever else is watching that I'm going to be a much better, improved player next season. I haven't been thinking about a contract. If I come back and play well like I know I'm going to, contract will take care of itself. I'm going to work on my craft and work on my game. That's what I'm worrying about."
The AFC South-winning Texans finished 11-5 last season on the strength of the Deshaun Watson-DeAndre Hopkins combination on offense and a stout defense that ranked No. 1 against the run, per Football Outsiders.
Clowney played a large part in the run defense's success in addition to his pass-rushing prowess, so it would behoove Houston to sign him to a long-term deal. The question is when that will take place.