The Seahawks have made their offer to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but he hasn’t made his decision yet. Here’s why the Hawks are his best landing spot.
Star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wanted to test the free agent market, as anyone would. That freedom was a key part of the deal that brought him to the Seahawks. It was agreed that Seattle would not slap the franchise tag on him, precisely so he could avoid the contract hassle that led to his departure (I say theft) from the Texans. He’s tested the market, and it’s nowhere near what he, or anyone else, expected. There are several excellent reasons he should take the deal the Hawks have on the table. So let’s dive in, shall we?
First, let’s talk about those expectations. Jadeveon Clowney is an elite player. What he is not is an elite pass rusher. That is, not according to the flashiest stat, sacks. I’m not just talking about those three sacks last season. In his best season, he totaled 9.5 sacks, or half what would lead the league. Over the past ten seasons, the average league leader generated 18.95 sacks. In today’s NFL, quarterback sacks equal money sacks. The top five contracts for defensive ends belong to DeMarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark, J.J. Watt, Trey Flowers, and Arik Armstead. Flowers is the only one that hasn’t recorded a season with double-digit sacks. And he has 66 QB hits over the past three years.
Lawrence and Clark are the only two making $20 million per year, the number Clowney expected. Armstead just signed a five-year deal for an average of $17 million. Now, in my opinion, Jadeveon Clowney is the superior player. Armstead had a great year, but it was his first after three years of taking up roster space and one good season. That $20 million deal just wasn’t going to be there. Aside from the lower sack rate, there’s another major reason for the lack of enthusiasm for Clowney.
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That reason is his injury history. Clowney missed three games for the Seahawks last season and missed a lot of time during his final two games. He played 82 percent of the snaps in weeks 9-12, then just 62 percent in weeks 14 and 17. Hey, I’m not knocking the guy. He played his heart out with a nasty injury. I’d have been dead weeks ago if it had been me. But the NFL views things a bit more harshly. They simply see it as missed time. So that’s the other major strike against a huge payday for him.
The good news is, the Seahawks have made Clowney a significant offer. Now, just what that offer is, varies according to your source. Corbin Smith of Sports Illustrated reported that the Hawks had offered Jadeveon Clowney $18.5 million per year on a multi-year deal. However, it’s also been reported on several social media accounts (yeah, we know, consider your source) that the actual offer was $13-$14 million per year. I suspect, considering the cap situation of the Hawks, the truth lies in the middle. That would be something like $13.5 million for 2020, escalating by $2.5 mil per year. Hence, $16 million in 2021, $18.5 in 2022, $21 million in 2022.
The Hawks could sweeten the deal for Clowney with a large guarantee, which would be important for him considering the injuries. The team could offset those injury concerns to a large extent by giving him a massive signing bonus that they could prorate over the life of the contract. They’d still have to pay it, but they’d have years to do so. They could also add simple incentives for games played.
As it stands now, it looks like there are only two other teams in the hunt for Clowney. Those are the Jets and the Titans. The normally incredibly reliable Ian Rapoport tweeted on the 19th that New York had agreed to a deal with Clowney on a four-year $64 million deal. That’s $16 million per year for all the liberal arts majors. You’ll note my off-the-cuff guess totals $69 million, so we win. Seriously, it looks like this may have been the Jets offer, and that Clowney is simply considering his other options. Supposedly, the Jets deal hasn’t been signed as they want him to pass a physical. Makes sense, but odd that no other deal has required a physical.
That other offer would be from Tennessee. I haven’t seen any numbers for that potential deal, but it clearly isn’t $20 million per year, or we’d be seeing photos of Jadeveon Clowney with a T-looking sword on a jersey. Aside from the money, why would Clowney want to go to either team? He made it clear that he wants to be on a team with a solid shot to win the Super Bowl. The Jets have absolutely no shot at that in the foreseeable future. If he’s serious about winning a championship, they could offer him $25 million and it wouldn’t be enough.
The Titans are a more interesting case. They have an excellent defense, which he would only improve. They have a tremendous running game, anchored by Derrick Henry. They also have a glaring problem. They just handed Ryan Tannehill a four-year deal for $118 million. $91 million is guaranteed. Read that again. The Titans *guaranteed* $91 million to a quarterback who, up until last season, was mediocre to good. Yes, he was phenomenal last year. Please show me the other player whose QB rating jumped from his career average of 87.5 to 117.5 and sustained it. To be clear, that was in ten games. He’s far closer to being Rick Mirer than he is Russell Wilson.
That’s the thing. Clowney is playing with Russell Wilson right now. He’s already on a team that’s made the playoffs in seven of the last eight years. The J-E-T-S haven’t seen the postseason since 2010. The Titans improbable playoff run was only their second since 2008. Which of the three teams has the best chance to return to the playoffs and help Clowney reach his goal? It isn’t even close.