SEATTLE – So maybe, like every day since free agents could begin legally negotiating with NFL teams on March 16, you woke up thinking today would be the day there would finally be news about Jadeveon Clowney.
But, like every day since then, it appears as if there won’t be any.
As of Saturday, the Clowney watch is now on Day 13, which seems a fitting time for an update.
Not that there appears to be much of one.
Reports of anything related to Clowney have dried up in the past few days. A few sources also indicated that for now, all appears pretty quiet with the Seahawks defensive end, who is one of the few marquee free agents who remains unsigned or has yet to agree to terms.
In fact, on Pro Football Talk’s list of the top 50 free agents, only two remain unaccounted for – Clowney and Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, who were also the first overall NFL draft picks in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015.
One growing thought around the league is that Clowney could take a while to find a new team, with some wondering if he could even wait into training camp.
Now, that sentence deserves the quick caveat that there’s been so little real info on this that anything could conceivably still happen – Clowney could well be picking a team as this is being written for all anyone seems to really know.
Plans can also change in a heartbeat in free agency – recall Earl Thomas a year ago being all set to sign a one-year deal with the Chiefs (which is fun to think about now given how the season went) only to change course when Baltimore suddenly, and apparently totally out of the blue, came calling with a four-year contract.
But the idea that Clowney might be in this for the long haul is gaining some traction.
So far, Clowney hasn’t received offers anywhere close to what he wanted, which is a multiyear deal in the range of $20 million a season or more. If he had, he’d have signed long ago.
What exactly he has received has been a matter of some debate.
But the general consensus is that Seattle’s offer was more in the $13-15 million-per-year range, though there has been some conjecture the Seahawks might have had a couple of different offers – a shorter-term deal of one or two years for less money (because all the cap hits would have to be taken in that one or two years but allowing Clowney to get to free agency again quickly); and a longer-term deal with a higher average (which spreads out the cap hit but also probably includes ways for Seattle to get out of it pretty easily in the final year or two).
One report that Clowney turned down $17 million a year from Miami was also quickly rebutted.
Regardless, that report is about the only one to state a specific dollar figure to a specific offer from a team that has been associated with Clowney, and it falls far below what he is presumed to want.
Why hasn’t Clowney received the offers he desired?
A few apparent reasons:
1. He had just three sacks last season, and the guys who get the $20 million-plus type of deals tend to get a lot more sacks than that or are unblockable inside presences such as Aaron Donald. That Clowney is not a traditional sack-getting end might be making it hard for teams to assess his value.
2. His injury history coupled with the current restrictions on teams giving physicals. Clowney had surgery for a core-muscle injury in January. He also had microfracture surgery on a knee in 2014. That teams can’t bring in Clowney for their own physical now is undoubtedly complicating things.
While waiting for Clowney, the Seahawks have remained active in free agency, adding seven players via trade or signings since it opened, which has their cap number now below $10 million. With all but Bruce Irvin’s contract accounted for, Seattle had an estimated $11.3 million on Friday, per OvertheCap.com. Irvin’s contract is expected to be in the $3-4 million range.
But don’t worry much about that. Cap space can always be created, and not just by the oft-cited tactic of releasing players such as center Justin Britt ($8.5 million) but also by potentially converting some of the 2020 base salary of Russell Wilson ($18 million) or Bobby Wagner ($10.75 million) into a bonus.
The salaries of each are fully guaranteed anyway, and turning it into a bonus would allow for spreading out the cap hit more over future seasons, when the cap will go way up (though granted, that also kicks the can down the road some in taking up cap space in future years).
Seattle has precedent for that, famously turning almost $7 million of Doug Baldwin’s 2017 salary into a bonus on the day it traded for Sheldon Richardson.
More to the point here is that Seattle appears to have set a value on Clowney and doesn’t appear to want to stray from it, as has been the team’s mode of operation in recent years.
Also worth wondering is whether with each passing day, any “hometown” advantage Seattle might have had disappears a little more.
That was obviously one of the big hopes when the season ended, that Clowney liked it so much here he’d maybe even take a discount to stay.
But the more realistic view was always that Clowney hadn’t taken all the steps he did to try to get to free agency – forcing a trade from Houston and getting Seattle to agree not to place a franchise tag on him – to not want to try to maximize his value once he got there.
Clowney also basically spent maybe four months in Seattle, the trade coming after the preseason ended. He had surgery after the season and has since reportedly been back in Houston working out.
Why would Clowney wait? Won’t that just decrease his options?
Well, at the moment he doesn’t appear too keen on the ones he has and might assume that one of those will still be there later, so why not wait to see what might develop down the road?
It’s also worth remembering Clowney displayed a penchant for patience last offseason, declining to sign his tag with Houston after filing a grievance against the team when it listed him as a linebacker instead of a defensive end, holding out all of training camp, and then reportedly being willing to sit out into the regular season to get the deal he wanted, turning down an offer of a trade to Miami before accepting the deal with the Seahawks.
Clowney might also think that if the coronavirus crisis clears up well enough at some point to take physicals that he might get a better offer then.
And there’s also the thought that some teams who see him still available could jump back into the hunt.
One rumor is that the Giants could rescind their franchise tag on defensive tackle Leonard Williams, which would clear up $16.126 million in cap space, and go after Clowney, instead (Baltimore could also do the same with edge rusher Matthew Judon, who was tagged at $16.3 million).
Clowney might be willing to wait to see what happens, meaning that for now, the wait just continues to continue.
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