The New Orleans Saints reportedly tried to orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal with another team—believed to be the Cleveland Browns—in an effort to sign defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, according to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Per that report, the Saints didn't believe they could match the deal Clowney eventually signed with the Tennessee Titans (one year, $12 million with $3 million in incentives) so they attempted to get creative:
"The sides discussed parameters of a deal in which Team X would've signed Clowney to a one-year, $15 million contract and paid him a $5 million signing bonus. Then, Team X would've immediately traded Clowney to the Saints, who would've sent Team X a second-round draft pick, as well as a player to take additional salary off New Orleans' books. The Saints would've paid Clowney's remaining $10 million salary."
The report raised a few eyebrows on social media:
Pelissero and Rapoport pegged the Browns as the mystery team because they "have ample cap space and a front office known for having a propensity for creativity, most memorably on display in their 2016 trade for quarterback Brock Osweiler."
Per that report, however, the NFL likely would not have approved the deal, putting the kibosh on it. It would have been unprecedented for an NFL team to have signed a free agent solely with the purpose of trading him.
"Fundamentally, you can't trade cash," one executive told Pelissero and Rapoport while talking about the league's likely rejection of the deal.
So the Saints couldn't match Tennessee's offer and Clowney ended up on the Titans, bolstering a defense that lost Jurrell Casey this offseason after he was traded to the Denver Broncos. The Titans were a game away from the Super Bowl last year after upsetting the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens and look like a real threat to make another run in the 2020 season.
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The Jadeveon Clowney rundown: 1st overall pick in 2014 NFL Draft 5.8% run stuff rate since 2016 (1st in NFL) 26.5% pass rush win rate since 2018 (2nd in NFL) 32.0 career sacks Clowney has signed a 1-year deal with the Titans worth up to $15M according to ESPN's @AdamSchefter https://t.co/zyD4lgHeFj
It's pretty shocking that a talent of Clowney's caliber is just being signed with a week to go before the season begins. But Tennessee got its man despite a truly unique effort by the Saints.