Much like the NFL draft, when the free agency period opens up and premiere players at priority positions are available, they find a new home fairly quickly.
So, why are defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Yannick Ngakoue still on the market? And who will find their way to a new team first?
Clowney was the No. 1 high school recruit in the country but he put himself on most people’s radar when he destroyed Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl. Since then, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound stalwart has been leaving his mark at all levels.
He was the first-overall pick in the 2014 draft. Although he missed significant time in his first two seasons with the Houston Texans due to injury, his 2016-18 campaigns were highly productive. Clowney recorded 24 1/2 sacks in those three years and was looking for a big payday. The Texans weren't willing to give it to him and instead used their franchise tag. Clowney was eventually traded to the Seattle Seahawks where he played the entire 2019 season. The Seahawks did not use their franchise tag and hoped to get a long-term deal done, knowing that doing so would risk him going to another team in free agency.
Clowney has watched pass rushers like Frank Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence and Khalil Mack sign deals that pay more than $20 million per year; Clowney's demands are likely to be in that group but so far no team has offered that. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Seattle's offer "hasn't been what Clowney wants" and as a result, Clowney's price tag may have gone down. ESPN's Dianna Russini also reported Clowney's camp is now looking for a deal in the $17-18 million per year range.
With that updated price tag, it has been rumored that the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots have entered the conversation with the Seahawks.
What about Ngakoue?
Ngakoue isn't a free agent. He is currently on the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster under their franchise tag. In a series of social media posts over the last few weeks, Ngakoue has made it clear that he does not want to be a Jaguar anymore.
For Ngakoue, it's all about the long-term. The young, stud pass rusher is looking for more financial stability, even if it means saying no to a $17 million payout this next season — almost six times more than his career earnings after four years.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported last week the Jaguars have received multiple trade offers and inquiries, but Jacksonville still likes him too. The Jaguars aren't just going to give Ngakoue away, despite how much he may want that. ESPN's Jordan Raanan reported the current asking price is "a first-round pick and more."
There are teams that could part with a first-round pick for Ngakoue, but trading for Ngakoue is pointless if they can't sign him to a long-term deal. When a team looks at Ngakoue's situation, it has to be willing to invest high draft capital and his cap capital; that has created the standstill.
Both of these pass rushers are available in different ways. My money would be on Clowney finding a new home, even if the market for his services is smaller than Ngakoue's. Jacksonville's price tag seems to be too high. If Ngakoue is going to move this offseason, it might not be until draft weekend or later.
As for Clowney, his domino could fall any day now, and the longer he's on the market at his newly lowered price tag, the more teams will join the conversation.