Winners and Losers of NFL's Blockbuster Clowney, Tunsil Trades

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystAugust 31, 2019

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, left, keeps the ball as Seattle Seahawks offensive guard Ethan Pocic, right, tries to block Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

Jadeveon Clowney held all of the leverage and got exactly what he wanted when the Houston Texans dealt the three-time Pro Bowl edge defender to the Seattle Seahawks for next to nothing. 

The Texans remained undeterred and received a building block at left tackle in a blockbuster deal with the Miami Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

The end result is less important than the process to reach this point. 

According to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, Clowney preferred to play for Seattle or the Philadelphia Eagles, which hamstrung the Texans' negotiating prowess since a deal couldn't be completed without the 2014 No. 1 overall pick signing his franchise tag. 

Instead, the handcuffed Texans agreed to an awful deal that brought back a 2020 third-round pick as well as linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin in return, per Rapoport

Clowney has an opportunity to test the waters by playing one year in Seattle before deciding whether he wants to enter free agency next offseason. The Seahawks, on the other hand, will have a full season to convince their new defensive cornerstone to re-sign long-term without surrendering anything of consequence. 

The 26-year-old defender is the big winner since he landed at one of his preferred destinations, but others will also benefit from the deal, or else be derided for poor decisions. 

Usually, the upside of a trade receives top billing since most deals take time to assess, but not in this instance. The Seahawks fleeced the Texans, who were placed in a no-win situation of their own making. Then, Houston panicked because it failed to adequately address its offensive front through the Clowney deal. 


Loser: Texans head coach Bill O'Brien

Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'BrienKevin M. Cox/Associated Press/Associated Press

Houston's de facto general manager looks completely overmatched. 

Once the organization decided not to hire another general manager after firing Brian Gaine in June, Bill O'Brien filled the void. The idea O'Brien could take over after not previously working a front office job in any capacity bordered on ridiculous. 

O'Brien might have mentored under Bill Belichick, but he's not Belichick. The Texans can't emulate New England's years of success, nor should they even try. Houston can be more intelligent in its overall approach, though. 

A well-run organization doesn't allow Clowney's situation to fester for as long as it did. If questions arose about his long-term status, a deal with a far better return could have been struck months ago, like the one the Seahawks made when they traded star defensive end Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs. Clark decided he didn't want to play under the franchise tag, so general manager John Schneider dealt him for a 2019 first-round pick and a 2020 second-rounder. 

The Texans didn't have that option because they waited until after the July 15 deadline, after which a player on the franchise tag can't negotiate a long-term deal. Thusly, Clowney didn't sign, which created leverage for him. Furthermore, his trade value decreased since suitors couldn't sign him to a long-term deal. 

Secondly, the Texans could have held on to Clowney this season, let him play out his contract and likely received a 2021 third-round compensatory draft pick once he signed with another team in free agency. Or, they could have tagged him again and created more favorable negotiating terms before next year's deadline. 

Thirdly, Mingo and Martin are replacement-level players. They're not going to create much of an impact for the Texans defense. They're throw-ins to make the deal look a bit better. 

Finally and most importantly, the Texans didn't acquire any offensive line help in this particular deal. Getting a pair of rotational linebackers in return is bad enough; the fact Houston didn't help itself by adding to its weakest unit borders on the deal being theft. The addition of a competent blocker would have made Clowney's departure easier to swallow. Alas, that was not the case. 

Yes, the Texans will save the $16 million slotted for Clowney's contract. Other than that, the deal looks like a total loss for O'Brien. 

"I've said this before ... It's not a matter of want," the coach/general manager said of getting Clowney back, per Fox 26's Mark Berman. "It's a matter of a difference of opinion in value relative to the contract. That's really where it's at. It has nothing to do with want."

Obviously, the Texans didn't value Clowney all that much. But they certainly valued Tunsil. 

Per reporting from Rapoport, Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero, O'Brien sent a pair of first-round picks, a future second-round pick, special teams standout Johnson Bademosi and backup tackle Julie'n Davenport to acquire Tunsil and Stills. 

Basically, the Texans couldn't get Clowney to comply so they could land Tunsil as part of the original deal. So O'Brien offered up a bevy of top picks as an enticement for the Dolphins to let go of a talented young offensive tackle.

In a matter of hours, Houston gave away its franchise player and multiple early-round picks in a desperate attempt to fix the roster's biggest problem area. 


Winner: Seahawks general manager John Schneider

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider
Seattle Seahawks general manager John SchneiderElaine Thompson/Associated Press/Associated Press

On the flip side, Schneider continued to show why he's one of the league's best general managers. Forget what the Seahawks gave up to acquire Clowney for a moment and consider where they're at after a tumultuous offseason. 

Seattle lost four starterssafety Earl Thomas, nickel corner Justin Coleman, guard J.R. Sweezy and defensive tackle Shamar Stephenin free agency. On top of that, the team only had four 2019 draft picks at the time. Plus, Clark wasn't happy with his contract situation after being franchised. 

Then, Schneider began to work his magic. 

The Seahawks signed Mike Iupati to replace Sweezy, though the four-time Pro Bowl guard is still dealing with a sore foot and calf. As previously mentioned, Clark garnered first- and second-round picks. They then signed former Pro Bowl defensive end Ziggy Ansah as a possible replacement, though he's spent the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery.

Once the draft arrived, Schneider couldn't stop trading selections. The Seahawks made 11 picks by the time the event ended, including first-round defensive end L.J. Collier. 

To top it all off, Seattle traded away a franchise-caliber pass-rusher only to acquire another one. 

Essentially, Schneider flipped Clark, Martin, Mingo and a 2019 third-round pick for Clowney and 2019 first- and 2020 second-round picks. 

The downside is minimal, even if Clowney decides to sign elsewhere next year. 


Loser: Miami Dolphins

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil
Left tackle Laremy TunsilRich Barnes/Associated Press

Everyone can be fairly certain Clowney won't eventually sign with the Dolphins. According to Wilson, the five-year veteran remained "adamant" about not wanting to play for the rebuilding organization. 

As recently as Tuesday, Miami considered itself the leader for the edge defender's services after meeting with him, per the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero, but any possible deal quickly fell apart. 

At this point, the Dolphins organization must accept its reality: The team is one of the league's least talented, and the front office and coaching staff should accept the fact they are entering a complete rebuild. 

It starts by shipping out those who don't fit their current plans yet retain value around the league, like Tunsil and Stills. 

Top free agents or players who become available, like Clowney, aren't going to seriously consider the Dolphins despite the desirable location and an owner who is willing to spend. 

Miami's primary goal at this point should be to build a war chest of draft and financial assets. It has already started the process with four first-rounders, four second-rounders and two third-rounders in the next two drafts. 

Short-term losses will help long-term gains. 

Winner: Seahawks defensive line

Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford (97) and Jarran Reed (90)
Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford (97) and Jarran Reed (90)Ted S. Warren/Associated Press/Associated Press

Clowney's addition helps the Seahawks roster more than any other potential landing spot. Seattle's defensive front endured multiple setbacks, but now, the group presents enough potential to be a dominant force by midseason. 

A few obstacles must be overcome before the unit can reach that point, though.

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who experienced a breakthrough campaign in 2018 with 10.5 sacks, is suspended six games for a violation of the league's personal conduct policy. 

Ansah was able to put in "significant on-field work" Tuesday, per the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta, but his status for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals remains uncertain. 

"He is on his way back," head coach Pete Carroll said, according to Condotta. "The shoulder is healed and his groin is healed and he is ready to battle. … We will wait until next week (for him to play)."

Collier, meanwhile, continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. This year's first-round pick might start practicing again next week, according to NBC Sports Northwest's Joe Fann

"This is not the injury or the guy, in my mind, to rush," Carroll said. "He just hasn't been with us enough, to think he's going to come in and save the day, I'm not doing that with him. We'll get him well and make sure he's well."

Clowney automatically becomes the focal point of the Seahawks defense, and opposing offenses will key in on him, but the number of talented defenders Seattle features up front will eventually feed off each other with a chance to become one of the league's best defensive lines. 

Winner: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson
Texans quarterback Deshaun WatsonEric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Despite everything else, a clear winner emerged in Houston. 

Quarterback Deshaun Watson should be ecstatic. The Texans' roundabout approach to landing a legitimate left tackle will make life much better for the 23-year-old signal-caller. Opponents sacked Watson a league-high 62 times last season. 

Tunsil's acquisition helps twice over: He immediately upgrades the entire front five and keeps Matt Kalil off the field. Some concerns still exist with two rookie guards projected to start, but Watson's blind side should be adequately protected. 

Also, Stills provides another vertical threat. His speed will help open the field even more for the game's best wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. 

The Texans remained persistent in their pursuit of Tunsil and eventually completed a trade. As a result, Watson could challenge Clowney as the NFL's happiest player as the regular season looms. 


Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.