Seattle Seahawks Have No Excuse Not to Bring Back Jadeveon ClowneyMay 7, 2020
It's starting to appear as though the Seattle Seahawks successfully called Jadeveon Clowney's bluff. If that's the case, the Seahawks have to finally work something out with their star free-agent edge defender.
Reports regarding Clowney's desires, his status and the nature of negotiations with the Seahawks have been dizzying.
On the first official day of NFL free agency, ESPN's Dianna Russini reported Clowney was seeking a contract worth about $20 million per year, while NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported the three-time Pro Bowler hadn't "found the market he expected."
That week, the Seahawks had an offer on the table for Clowney worth $18.5 million annually, according to Gregg Bell of the News Tribune. But either that was false or Clowney declined, because a couple of weeks later, Russini reported the 27-year-old dropped his asking price to $17-18 million per season.
A few days later, John Clayton of 710 ESPN Seattle also reported that said asking price had dropped to around $17 million a year.
Suddenly, there was talk that he'd consider a one- or two-year contract. And although Garafolo told Seattle's 950 KJR in early April that the chances of a reunion between Clowney and the Seahawks were "slim to none," Seahawks general manager John Schneider noted later that month—per Pro Football Talk—that "the door is not closed." Head coach Pete Carroll confirmed that as well, and now Clowney appears to be selling himself to his 2019 team.
This week, in a story from Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston that sometimes resembled a promotional video, Clowney went through a series of workouts on camera in order to show he's fully recovered from the sports hernia surgery he underwent in February. He suggested—with good reason—that restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic could be impacting his market, and he didn't rule out a return to Seattle.
"I loved Seattle when I was there this past year," he said. "I loved everybody on the coaching staff. I wouldn't trade them guys in. I hope we can work something out if anything happens. I did like it up there. I loved [Russell Wilson]. I loved all the guys I played with."
Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26
Free agent DE Jadeveon Clowney (@clownejd) working at @PlexAthlete in Houston: “Whoever I sign with is gonna get the best version of me..I know what I got to do to get where I need to get.” (Hasn’t ruled out the @Seahawks): “I love Seattle..I love everybody on the coaching staff” https://t.co/Al0dbbKQcG
And yet, oddly, ESPN's Brady Henderson reported Wednesday that a new deal between Clowney and the Seahawks is "not considered likely" because the six-year veteran "would have to take significantly less money than what the team previously offered him."
For the sake of Seahawks fans, here's hoping the organization is posturing.
The Seahawks might not have been willing to commit $20 million-plus per year to Clowney on a long-term deal after he recorded just three sacks in an injury-impacted 2019 season. But with the required commitment now clearly less burdensome, the team can't afford to stay away.
With little work left to do elsewhere on the roster, the Seahawks have more than $21 million in salary-cap space, according to Spotrac. Meanwhile, a defense that wasn't particularly good last year has lost regular starter Quinton Jefferson and is currently down Clowney, Mychal Kendricks, Ezekiel Ansah and Nazair Jones, with newcomers Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor unlikely to be game-changers in 2020.
Irvin has to be running out of gas as he approaches 33; the soon-to-be 29-year-old Mayowa has never been a regular NFL starter; Brooks—the team's first-round pick last month—will likely be brought along slowly as part of a deep linebacker corps; and it would be foolish to count on a Day 2 pass-rusher like Taylor right off the bat.
The Seahawks might expect boosts from 2019 first-rounder L.J. Collier and 2016 second-rounder Jarran Reed up front, but that wouldn't be wise either. Coming off an ankle injury, the former made zero impact in 11 games as a rookie, while the latter recorded just two sacks in 10 games after missing six because of a domestic-violence suspension in 2019.
Not a single member of the Seahawks recorded five sacks last year. The defense recorded a tied-for-NFC-low 28 total sacks, ranked in the bottom five in pressure rate and was one of just six units to surrender at least 6.0 yards per play. They were the only playoff team to give up more than 24.5 points per game, and only three defenses missed more tackles.
So while Clowney disappointed with just three sacks last year, it's imperative that Seattle finds a way to bring him back.
Keep in mind that he suffered a slow start after an offseason holdout and then dealt with injuries for much, if not all, of the season. He started only 11 games and played just 57 percent of the team's defensive snaps but still finished the year with four forced fumbles. He was the only player in the league to hit that mark in fewer than 15 games.
He's yet to register the sack totals you want to see from a No. 1 overall pick in his prime, but Clowney did accumulate 18.5 and recover six fumbles in back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Houston Texans in 2017 and 2018, and he only turned 27 this offseason.
It's incredible he's lingered this long on the open market. He's by far the best unemployed defensive football player in the world right now, and there's room for him to get better. He says he loves Seattle, both sides say the door remains open, and the Seahawks have both the money and the appeal as a contender with a stacked offense.
Wilson and that offense have been asked to do most of the heavy lifting in recent years. While that might again be the case in 2020, the Seahawks front office owes it to Wilson and his offensive cohorts to at least bring in a remarkably talented player who can address a need at a discounted price.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don't. It's entirely your choice.