Jadeveon Clowney Shouldn't Pass on Chance to Play with Myles Garrett, Browns

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMay 30, 2020

Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) plays against Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Greg Robinson (78) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Everyone can understand why Jadeveon Clowney might not want to go to Cleveland. The Browns? Why would he want to play for them?

After all, the Browns have been the NFL's most dysfunctional franchise since the team's return in 1999. Owner Jimmy Haslam has already hired and fired five different head coaches and four general managers since he bought the team in 2012. In fact, Haslam hired general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski this offseason. 

As a result, Cleveland has often been the butt of many jokes and rightly so. 

So, it should come as no surprise that Clowney "balked" at a free-agent offer from the Browns even though they offered him the "most money," according to ESPN's Adam Schefter on The Next Level

But Cleveland is arguably the best landing spot for the 27-year-old defensive end. 

Yes, the Browns disappointed with a 6-10 record last season, and they play in the brutal AFC North, where the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers make life difficult. Cleveland hasn't yet shown, despite all of the talent on its roster, that it should be a winning team this fall. 

For some, the chance to contend is most important, but Clowney will be able to maximize his value in Cleveland, with Myles Garrett's presence in the lineup being one of the biggest factors. 

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David Richard/Associated Press

The 2017 No. 1 overall pick was in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation prior to his season-ending suspension for his role in a brawl during a game against the Steelers. Last year, he accumulated 10 sacks in 10 games. More importantly, the 24-year-old edge-rusher consistently applies pressure. 

"He registered a pressure on 17.1 percent of dropbacks in 2019, which was the highest percentage posted by a player since the 2016 season," NFL.com's Nick Shook wrote. "He also became one of just three players to post a pressure rate of 12 percent or higher in each of the last three seasons. The other two: Aaron Donald and Von Miller." 

According to Pro Football Focus, Garrett ranked first among edge defenders with a 25.9 percent pass-rush win rate. 

The next step is taking on more of a leadership role. 

"He is focused on being a good teammate," defensive coordinator Joe Woods told reporters. "He has been in the meetings. He is trying to step up and take more of a leadership role. I definitely think he is moving in the right direction and has the right mindset."

The elite defender is someone Cleveland's opponents must account for at all times. Imagine if a similar talent lined up across from or next to Garrett. 

Clowney should understand the value of playing alongside an All-Pro-level talent. His best all-around performance came during the 2018 campaign, when J.J. Watt was fully healthy for the Houston Texans and finished second in the league with 16 sacks. 

Garrett will demand plenty of attention, and protections will often slide in his direction. This will leave plenty of one-on-one opportunities for whoever lines up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

And he's not the only standout defensive lineman on Cleveland's roster.

Sheldon Richardson serves as the unit's 3-technique. He started slowly during the 2019 campaign after signing with the Browns in the offseason, but he became the team's best defensive lineman with Garrett suspended and Olivier Vernon injured during the latter portions of the campaign

Clowney won't have the opportunity to play alongside this level of talent with most other squads, and Cleveland has the cap room to pay him.

At the onset of free agency in March, the six-year veteran sought a contract worth $20 million annually. A couple of weeks later, he lowered his asking price to $17-18 million, according to ESPN's Dianna Russini. His lack of production last season (31 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks) coupled with his extensive injury history almost certainly created apprehension for teams. 

One thing should be made clear: Just because the Browns offered a lucrative contract, it doesn't mean they met Clowney's demands—which could be a sticking point. 

Currently, nine franchises have $20 million or more in available salary-cap space before all of the incoming draft picks are signed. 

The Browns have the biggest chunk of change to spend at $37.4 million, per Spotrac. The rest are as follows: 

  • Washington Redskins, $34.7 million: Washington invested first-round draft picks on Montez Sweat and Chase Young in consecutive years with Ryan Kerrigan already on the roster. 
  • Detroit Lions, $28.2 million: The Lions need edge help, but they don't offer the same caliber defensive front as the Browns. 
  • Miami Dolphins, $25.2 million: The Dolphins already made a run at Clowney, and he turned them down, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The front office responded by signing Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah
  • Cincinnati Bengals, $24.3 million: The Bengals aren't known for making splashy free-agent moves and already invested heavily in defensive tackle D.J. Reader. 
  • Indianapolis Colts, $24.3 million: The Colts traded a first-round pick for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and made him the second-highest-paid defensive lineman on an annual basis. 
  • Philadelphia Eagles, $22.7 million: The Eagles have plenty of depth along their defensive line. 
  • Los Angeles Chargers, $21.3 million: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III are already on the roster. 
  • Jacksonville Jaguars, $20.5 million: The Jaguars appear to be entering a rebuilding campaign. 

Where else could Clowney sign? 

The Tennessee Titans have $19.9 million in cap room, and head coach Mike Vrabel, who spent four seasons with the Texans as an assistant from 2014 to 2017, has a history with Clowney. Tennessee could be a good landing spot, but Clowney would have to be flexible. 

He could decide to take a short-term deal at a much lower price tag in an attempt to up his value and reenter the market next year. 

David Richard/Associated Press

The Browns have no reason to negotiate against themselves. They're interested in signing Clowney to a long-term deal, according to Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson, and shouldn't feel pressured to make a move. 

Vernon remains a quality piece on the roster. The eight-year veteran has a risky injury history and missed six games last year, but the Browns should manage if Clowney doesn't take them up on their offer.

If Clowney does want to go to Cleveland, Vernon could play a major part since the Browns can save $15.5 million by releasing their current starter while not adding a significant amount to this year's salary cap. 

Thus, the waiting game will ensue. 

Ultimately, the Browns can take or leave Clowney. But Clowney doesn't have a better option.

                                     

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

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