Seattle Seahawks pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who will be 27 years old when he hits free agency, will be one of the most sought after players on the market.
Clowney was traded to Seattle in August after five seasons with the Houston Texans, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2014. Why would you trade one of the most feared pass rusher in the game? Money, of course.
After completing his rookie deal, the Texans gave Clowney the franchise and paid him $15 million for a single season before allowing him to hit the open market again in 2020. Clowney, a player who knows he is just one bad injury away from a life-altering path, was not thrilled about playing a one-year deal with no job security past 2019. He was a no-show through nearly all pre-season work and training camp. He became available and then came Pete Carroll and the Seahawks.
However, this was no sign-and-trade like we see in the other leagues like NBA, and as it stands right now, though Seattle did give up a third-round pick, there is no guarantee Clowney will still be a Seahawk in 2020.
If he does not agree to an extension before March, Clowney will hit the open market again. We know two things are a priority for him.
The first: winning.
"It was getting close to the time I said I'd come in, and all of a sudden (Bill O'Brien) called me and said, 'You need to come in and talk to us.' When I got there they're talking about me signing the tender and going to the Dolphins (via trade),” Clowney recently told Mike Silver of NFL.com. “They said, 'It'll be good for you and good for us.' I'm like, 'Good for me? They're gonna tank the season for a damn quarterback! Find me a team that can win, and I'll sign the damn tender.'
"People say, 'He was trying to leave.' That's a lie. I didn't ask them to trade me. I didn't even ask them to pay me any more. I just wanted to play one last year with my teammates. But hey, it's part of the business. It was a business move, and I got the short end of the stick at the time. Now? It looks like I got the big end of the stick."
The second: money.
Khalil Mack is currently the highest paid pass rusher in the league, banking $23.5 million per year with the Chicago Bears. Dallas Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence is next at $21 million per year and Kansas City Chiefs’ Frank Clark is the other position player above the $20 million per season (at $20.8 million). Lawrence and Clark's deals were for five years while Mack's was for six. Clowney likely won't take anything less than five himself.
Over the Cap founder Jason Fitzgerald took a stab at predicting what a Clowney contract might look like last offseason. It was a contract of six-years, $135 million with $85 million guaranteed. It would have averaged out to $22.5 million per season, and Clowney would have been the second-highest paid pass rusher behind only Mack.
But there is something Mack, Lawrence, Clark and other top-paid players have that Clowney does not: a double-digit sack season. All of these pass rushers have two or more. Clowney came close twice, tallying 9 1/2 and nine sacks in the 2017 and 2018 season, respectively. Sacks certainly aren't the only way to judge a player's disruption. There are tackles for loss, quarterback pressures and QB hurries that have value for an edge rusher.
Does Clowney's tape match a player who could be a top-five earner? Let's take a look.
Play No. 1: Inside move (versus the run)
Clowney has one of the nastiest inside moves in the league, and he goes to it early and often. But being an edge rusher is more than just rushing the pass. While he can certainly do that, too, you will see in a second, Clowney is so fast and strong his attributes show up against the run just as much. He is a player who rarely gets moved off his spot and is excellent at setting the edge. For these reasons, Clowney is a guy who you never have to take off the field. He is the ultimate value player.
Play No. 2: Inside move (versus the pass)
The edge rusher puts bread on the table with their pass rushing skills. For Clowney, his inside move is just as dangerous against the pass as it is against the run.
He may not have recorded the sack in this particular play, but he produced pressure that was good enough to on a different play — that is worth noting. Those are the kinds of plays where you trust the process maybe even over the result. Clowney's inside swim move is nearly unblockable when he hits it right. It gives him a go-to move that is crucial for a premier pass rusher.
Play No. 3: Unique athleticism
Clowney, at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, is an insane athlete for his size. He is naturally explosive and powerful. But more than that, he has good balance and hand-eye coordination.
Clowney has 14 passes defended throughout his career — a good number for a defensive lineman. This can be credited to his innate ability to find the ball and process plays. It is little things like this that continue to build on the value he brings at his position.
Play No. 4: Price of attention
Another non-stat aspect of defensive-line play that Clowney can bring is just how much attention he commands. And he commands a lot of extra attention. At his size, with his explosiveness and moves in the backfield, teams can rarely cover Clowney one-on-one, and sometimes, as shown above, even the extra attention can fail.
Clowney’s motor is constantly running high, and when that is the case it is a nightmare for any offensive line. Most star defensive ends care about their own sacks, Clowney just loves to wreak havoc.
Play No. 5: Destroyer of worlds
If I could describe what it is like going up against Clowney in one play, I would show this one. It was from a couple of years ago, but the point still stands — I think the player trying to block him still wakes up at night thinking about it too.
Clowney is big, fast, strong, relentless, has some nice moves and impacts a defensive line beyond himself.
That is a player worth a top-five contract.