NFL Free Agency 2021: The Best Potential Landing Spots for Jadeveon Clowney

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

NFL Free Agency 2021: The Best Potential Landing Spots for Jadeveon Clowney

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    Jadeveon Clowney, one of the better all-around defenders in the NFL, remains on the free-agent market and is again flirting with a potentially extended stay. 

    One year removed from not inking a prove-it deal with the Tennessee Titans until the first week of September, he's still available as the calendar nears April. 

    Pressure is king in the NFL, and that explains most of it. Clowney hasn't done enough from a pass-rushing standpoint to earn that massive edge-defender contract, and last year didn't help as injuries limited him to eight games in which he posted zero sacks. He has just 32 sacks over 83 career games since coming off the board first overall in 2014. 

    Still, Clowney is only 28 years old, and his last notably healthy season came in 2019 when he posted an 87.3 Pro Football Focus grade. He's still coveted for his skills, though last year might mean another short prove-it deal.

    The best potential landing spots offer a mixture of scheme fit, cap space and an environment where a healthy Clowney could get back to producing the big numbers that would earn him a better contract next offseason. 

Cleveland Browns

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Clowney and the Cleveland Browns popped up in speculation together last offseason, but nothing ever materialized.

    Flash forward to now and the two had a meeting, per Schefter.

    Granted, Clowney left without a deal as of now. But the fit makes a ton of sense for a Browns team trying to win right now after a playoff season. They haven't brought back Olivier Vernon, who remains a free agent, and the addition of Takkarist McKinley on a prove-it deal of his own isn't going to stop them from making a splash with a player of Clowney's upside. 

    Cleveland, still $13.7 million in the green, needs a starting-caliber player opposite Myles Garrett. Clowney is an ideal fit, and it would be one of the best possible spots he could join for his long-term prospects. 

Houston Texans

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    The old adage "never say never" exists for a reason. 

    The Houston Texans made Clowney the first pick in 2014, and he spent five seasons with the team before getting shipped to Seattle. 

    To say things have changed in Houston since Clowney was there would be an understatement. The coaching staff headed up by Bill O'Brien is gone, and the team just posted four wins while staring down the barrel of the league's most dramatic rebuild. 

    But now, the Texans simply need to add talent wherever the roster can get it. A smattering of free-agent signings isn't going to make up for the loss of J.J. Watt (and others) on a defense that mustered just 34 sacks last season. 

    A reunion with Houston wouldn't give Clowney a chance to show out during a postseason rush. But the surrounding pieces might help him squeak out the type of production that leads to a bigger contract next year, and going to an organization he already knows might add a minor boost. 

Indianapolis Colts

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Given the way the Indianapolis Colts hoard cap space, they are always positioned to grab a player like Clowney at a moment's notice. 

    Sitting on the fourth-most cap space at $30.3 million, they still haven't re-upped with veteran edge-rusher Justin Houston, who had eight sacks last year. Denico Autry, who posted 7.5 sacks, signed with Clowney's old team, the Titans. 

    No matter what happens with Houston, who plays on a pitch count near the end of his career, the need for a player like Clowney will persist. He'd be a fun, versatile piece who could operate around the foundational core that is DeForest Buckner in the heart of the defense. 

    From a resume standpoint, Indianapolis is a little risky because it's hard to project how things go with Carson Wentz as it hopes to compete for the playoffs. But the schematic fit is nice, and the Colts never hurt for cash. 

Miami Dolphins

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Clowney and the Miami Dolphins go way back in the speculation department. 

    The star edge defender himself has talked about his near-trade to Miami in the past. And last offseason, he reportedly turned down a contract offer from the Dolphins, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle

    This offseason makes just as much sense as the last one for both parties. After a 10-win season in which Emmanuel Ogbah led the team in sacks (nine), Miami still needs another edge presence to get after passers. The entire unit needs upgrades after cutting Kyle Van Noy. 

    Granted, Miami can do plenty in the way of upgrading via droves of draft assets. But Clowney is a known producer who can provide a boost as the team looks to win now, and that should also fit the edge defender's needs just fine.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers lost the NFL's highest-paid free-agent defender when Bud Dupree signed a five-year deal worth $82.5 million with the Titans. 

    Merits of that deal aside after his delayed blossoming and late-season injury, Pittsburgh couldn't offer that sort of money while trying to wiggle out of cap trouble and continuing to attempt playoff pushes with the returning Ben Roethlisberger

    Clowney and his muted market might be more of Pittsburgh's financial speed as it has $9.5 million in cap space and needs to replace Dupree's eight sacks from last year. 

    Not only is Clowney a good schematic fit, but he'd also get a chance to feast just like Dupree did. Last year, T.J. Watt (15 sacks) and Stephon Tuitt (11) led the way. Clowney coming in third in such a 2021 scenario would help smooth the loss of a key defender, and it would look great on his resume if he plays on a prove-it deal.