Well, at least part of Jadeveon Clowney’s free agency logic is coming to fruition. NFL teams are indeed starting to experience some training camp attrition and there may eventually be a need to add another piece to a championship-caliber roster.
On the same day the Dallas Cowboys lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the season with a ruptured quad tendon, the Philadelphia Eagles — who had a litany of defensive injuries last season — announced a week-to-week prognosis for defensive end Derek Barnett (lower back injury) and a multiple-week injury for defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (“upper body” issue). That’s a tough spate of early health issues for two teams primed to be Super Bowl contenders this season. And in theory, it’s the kind of thing that should help spice up the market for a star defensive end like Clowney. Instead, his market may be going in the other direction.
After speaking to a multitude of sources who have taken part in a pursuit for Clowney, his suitors appear to be thinning rather than growing.
The Cleveland Browns made their best pitch and offered Clowney more money and salary/years combinations than any other NFL team to date. He balked and they walked. If he has any chance of ending up in Cleveland now, it will be for solidly less than the $18 million-$19 million window that was available to him before training camp began.
The Tennessee Titans’ interest is there, but not at Clowney’s current number, which appears to be set at $17 million for one of his preferred landing spots. Ditto for the Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders. There is even some question about the depth of interest within the Raiders, as one source familiar with the organization said there is a “varied” appetite for the Clowney pursuit, depending on whether you’re speaking to head coach Jon Gruden or general manager Mike Mayock. The source said Mayock appears to be squarely in the same “price point” camp as the Titans and Seahawks.
As for the others who have shown some faint interest, the New York Jets haven’t been in the picture since early in free agency and the Baltimore Ravens briefly talked about Clowney internally in May, but then quickly bailed on that interest and turned their energy to getting Matthew Judon into the fold on his franchise tender.
Add it all up and you basically have a three-team picture between the Seahawks, Titans and Raiders. And of that trio, the Titans and Seahawks make the most sense in terms of being able to add Clowney late in the preseason, because of his familiarity with the schemes and/or coaching staffs.
But what hasn’t happened to this point is some team making a mid-August charge for his services — either because they aren’t happy with the performance of their depth chart on the edge of the defense, or due to injuries. That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, but three general managers involved in the Clowney pursuit told Yahoo Sports that they are actually less inclined to sign him now than they were early in the summer.
The reasons behind that waning interest were varied, but all three agreed that a one-year discounted deal is looking less attractive the longer Clowney sits out of camp. At least partially because of the growing injury fears inside teams now that players are padding up after essentially eight months of zero contact. One general manager pointed at the McCoy injury as part of the reason for added concern over Clowney.
“[Clowney] is a younger player and he’s carrying his weight better, but he also has a history of little nagging things and also some serious things,” the general manager said. “It doesn’t have to be a major [injury] like McCoy. If [Clowney] comes in now and then has some kind of soft-tissue thing that drags on, that could be a months-long thing or even a season-long thing. And I know we’re going to see more of the soft tissue stuff as the pads come on. He might think he’s avoiding something by sitting out and taking his time, but it’s not a positive at all in my opinion. Especially with all the other things we’re getting used to.”
So what’s the consensus with Clowney? The assumption is that he will run silent through the end of this week and that interested teams will push for renewed engagements at the start of next week — with the design on getting him into a building by the end of August, which would give a team essentially two weeks to acclimate him for the start of the season. But one thing seems pretty clear: Teams don’t see the risks getting any better in the equation, so the money won’t either. Particularly with the revenue shortfalls that already have team owners looking at their finances (and salary caps) far differently than they were six months ago.
“I just don’t see the [$17 million-$18 million] he wants happening,” said one general manager, who added that he would still be open to adding Clowney for a more modest number. “We’re not in on him anywhere near that. I know what his market is. It’s basically two teams [Seattle and Tennessee] and neither of them is coming to his number. [Cleveland] was as good as it was going to get. I don’t think that changes in a week, so he has a decision to make about whether he wants to play.”
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