The Texans could fight the anticipated grievance regarding Jadeveon Clowney‘s clunky dual-position franchise-tag designation of linebacker/outside linebacker. They could hire a retired coach who would expain to an arbitrator that outside linebackers in the 3-4 routinely put a hand in the dirt and rush the passer, which doesn’t make them defensive ends. They could force Clowney to jump through every imaginable hoop over a franchise-tender gap of $1.161 million.
They could. But they shouldn’t.
The Texans made Clowney the first overall pick in 2014. They paid him far less than they would have paid but for the rookie wage scale, a device that shrinks the compensation of all high-level rookies in the hopes of limiting the financial havoc wreaked by top-10 busts. They have declined to sign him to a long-term deal, making him play out every game of a five-year rookie contract, and now delaying his foray into free agency by at least one more year, via the franchise tag.
And now, after refusing to give Clowney the payday that he arbitrarily was denied for fear that he’d be a bust, the Texans are, relatively speaking, nickel-and-diming him over the question of whether a guy who was drafted as a defensive end was used as a defensive end in 2018.
A reader asked for Monday’s #PFTPM the question of whether Houston’s refusal to sign Clowney creates a locker-room problem. I don’t believe it does, because he was still the first overall pick in the draft, and he was paid accordingly (albeit far less than he would have been before 2011). It’s more problematic in the locker room when a guy like former Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye busts his ass to transform himself from undrafted free agent to solid contributor, and when he has to go elsewhere to get rewarded for it.
But this effort to play games over Clowney’s franchise tender could cause a problem in the locker room, with players wondering why the organization is both refusing to give him a long-term contract and declining to pay him like a guy who makes his living putting a hand in the dirt and chasing quarterbacks.
Maybe the Texans can direct executive V.P. of team development Jack Easterby to sweet talk the players into seeing it from the perspective of the organization, pointing out that Clowney will still be making nearly $16 million dollars. Still, the truth remains that the Texans have refused to give Clowney the contract that he has earned, and now they’re trying to keep him from getting paid in line with the position that, regardless of labels, anyone who follows football knows he played.