Realistic Landing Spot Predictions for Jadeveon Clowney in 2021 NFL Free Agency
NFL teams should be willing to roll the dice on Jadeveon Clowney this offseason. Although he hasn't played up to expectations as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 draft, the 28-year-old can set a hard edge and rush the passer when healthy.
Clowney went to three consecutive Pro Bowls between 2016 and 2018, all with the Houston Texans. He had a decent 2019 campaign within the Seattle Seahawks' front seven, logging 31 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks and 30 quarterback pressures.
Even though Clowney didn't rack up a ton of sacks in Seattle, he did affect plays with pocket pressure. However, the explosive defender overestimated his market value last offseason.
According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, Clowney aimed for a contract averaging $20 million annually. Eventually, he signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.
In hindsight, the Titans overpaid for Clowney, who recorded just 19 tackles, four for loss and 11 quarterback pressures through eight games. On November 21, Tennessee placed him on injured reserve, and he missed the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery in early December.
After a down season and with an expected drop in the 2021 salary cap, Clowney shouldn't expect to land a deal worth more than $10 million annually. In all likelihood, he'll have to settle for another one-year contract.
Still under 30 years old, Clowney could have a bounce-back campaign assuming he fully recovers from injury. Based on cap space, roster need and previous reports, we'll pinpoint five realistic landing spots for him.
The Baltimore Ravens will go into free agency with edge-rusher as a top need. Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser combined for 14 sacks this past season, which accounted for 36 percent of the team's total. And they all have expiring contracts.
Judon told CBS Sports' Adam Schein that he'd "love to be back" in Baltimore, but he thinks it would be "exciting and fun to play for a new organization." The Ravens need a plan B in case the two-time Pro Bowler signs elsewhere.
McPhee wants to stay in Baltimore, but general manager Eric DeCosta will need more than a 32-year-old rotational defender to address the pass rush if the team loses Judon and Ngakoue in free agency.
Jaylon Ferguson hasn't quite established himself at the position, recording 61 tackles, 13 for loss and 4.5 sacks in two seasons. Even if the Ravens think he can take a significant leap in his third term, they should pair him with a proven outside linebacker.
Within the front seven, the Ravens need an explosive downhill force to complement nose tackle Brandon Williams and 34-year-old Calais Campbell. Clowney could provide exceptional run support and open up pass-rushing lanes for interior defenders with consistent pocket pressure on the edge. At his best, he could lead the Ravens in sacks.
After a rough 2020, Clowney may want to consider options from last offseason.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t ESPN's Jake Trotter), last year, the Browns offered Clowney the most money among his potential suitors, but he "balked" at their proposal.
One year later, Cleveland still has a void to fill on the edge with Olivier Vernon set to hit the open market at 30 years old and coming off a torn Achilles he suffered in January. The Browns will likely look to find a pass-rushing complement to Myles Garrett.
For whatever reason, Clowney didn't choose the best financial offer that came from the Browns a year ago, but he may change his tune after the club went to the playoffs this past season, ending an 18-year postseason drought.
The Browns have $20.2 million in cap space, so they can sign Clowney to a one-year deal worth about $10 million. He may accept their proposal this time around with the team headed in the right direction.
The Indianapolis Colts could lose two of their top three pass-rushers this offseason, with Justin Houston and Denico Autry hitting free agency in the new league year. They combined for 15.5 sacks in 2020.
Indianapolis can re-sign either or both impending free-agent pass-rushers with $43.6 million in cap space. Even though they're solid defenders, the 30-year-old Autry and 32-year-old Houston won't command top-dollar salaries at this stage of their careers.
However, the Colts will likely face competition for Houston and Autry because of their sack production this past season.
Although Clowney just turned 28, his downward trend in yearly performances potentially evens his market value with Autry and Houston. If other suitors lure the Colts' impending free agents away or drive up their prices, the three-time Pro Bowler may be available at a lesser cost.
Indianapolis could save money and still fill a need with a younger defender who can form an outside-inside duo with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the front line.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers may allow Melvin Ingram III to walk in free agency after they hired lead skipper Brandon Staley, who brings in a new coaching staff. Typically, that signals changes, both schematically and in terms of personnel.
Ingram will turn 32 years old in April. Last offseason, he held out for contractual reasons, which prompted the Chargers to fully guarantee his 2020 salary, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The nine-year veteran battled a knee injury throughout the campaign and landed on injured reserve for the rest of the season in November.
Los Angeles can replace Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, with a younger player who has the same accolades in Clowney.
Although Leonard Floyd seems like a logical fit with the Chargers because of his breakout 2020 season under Staley with the Los Angeles Rams, Clowney is six months younger with a more decorated resume.
General manager Tom Telesco should consider Clowney an alternative to Floyd if he wants an edge-rusher who can also provide top-notch run support for a defense that ranked 18th against ground attacks this past year.
The Tennessee Titans can simply toss out Clowney's injury-riddled 2020 campaign as a fluke. He's played at least 13 games in five of his seven seasons.
Tennessee needs an edge-rusher opposite of Harold Landry, who led the team in sacks with just 5.5 this past season. The club didn't have quality depth behind Clowney, so while he battled a knee injury, the pass rush took a major hit.
According to Terry McCormick of Titan Insider, Clowney is "definitely open" to another year in Tennessee. McCormick noted the team will explore the free-agent market but may consider re-signing the versatile defender.
The Titans only have $1.6 million in cap space, but general manager Jon Robinson can make a couple of cuts at positions with depth to make room for Clowney.
With safety Amani Hooker's solid 2020 showing—logging 51 tackles, eight pass breakups and four interceptions—Kenny Vaccaro may be expendable for $5.4 million in cap space as a post-June 1 cut.
If the Titans want to start 2020 second-rounder Kristian Fulton at cornerback in the upcoming term, they may part ways with Malcolm Butler or Adoree' Jackson. Cutting one of the two veteran cover men would save $10.2 million in cap space.
Because of Tennessee's need at his position and Clowney's reported willingness to return, we could see the two sides come to an agreement on another deal.
NFL team cap space and player contracts courtesy of Over the Cap.