Earning His Keep
Free agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney will roll in the dough this season, but he's not guaranteed anything beyond that, after signing a 1-year deal with the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
The former No. 1 pick's deal is worth up to $15 million, with $12 million guaranteed and the possiblity of $3 million in incentives, according to reports.
Last season, he earned $8 million on a 1-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, following a trade from Houston to Seattle in September, and now, he's on his second consecutive 1-season deal, meaning the pressure is once again on Clowney to perform in order to secure a long-term deal in the near future.
The 27-year-old registered 3 sacks, 13 QB hits, 31 tackles and 7 TFL in 13 regular-season games for Seattle last season. While his 3 sacks were a career-low, he posted a career-high 4 forced fumbles and returned his first career interception for a TD.
Arguably Clowney's best performance came in a 27-24 overtime road win over the San Francisco 49ers, racking up 5 quarterback hits, 5 tackles and a forced fumble that resulted in a 10-yard score.
However, core, knee and hip injuries plagued his 2019 campaign and sidelined him for 3 games. In fact, a majority of his career has been riddled with injury, and he's only played all 16 regular season games in one of his six professional seasons so far.
Clowney has never posted double-digit sacks in a season, and his career high is 9.5 from his rookie year.
The Seahawks kept their eye on Clowney in free agency, but reportedly were unwilling to offer more than $12 million, ranking 20th in the league among salaries for defensive ends.
For context, Los Angeles Chargers DE Joey Bosa signed a 5-year, $135 million extension this offseason, with an average annual salary of $27 million, making him the highest-paid player in the NFL at the position.
The Saints were also at the table for Clowney, attempting to maneuver around salary cap constraints to create a unique sign-and-trade deal for the free agent.
The details of the work-around included another team signing Clowney to a 1-year, $15 million contract and paying him a $5 million signing bonus. That team would then trade Clowney to the Saints, and in return, NOLA would give that team a second-round draft pick and a player to take additional salary off of New Orleans. The Saints would be responsible for Clowney's remaining $10 million.
However, Tennessee had the financial edge with roughly $21 million in cap space compared to the $3.5 million for New Orleans, and, the NFL would not approve the creative negotiation.
In Nashville, Clowney will be reunited with former Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, who is now the Titans' head coach. Under Vrabel in 2017, Clowney posted 59 tackles with 21 TFL and 9.5 sacks, all career-highs.
Clowney played five years in Houston, working with Vrabel for the first three from 2014-2016, after going No. 1 in the 2014 NFL draft. Since being drafted, Clowney has 32.0 career sacks, good for 45th-most in NFL since his rookie season.
Ultimately, Clowney said the familiarity influenced his decision to join the Titans.
Harold Landry, the team's sacks leader in 2019 with 9, is the only returning player with more than 5 sacks last season, and the team as a whole finished 14th in the league with 43.
DL Jurrell Casey (5.0 sacks in 2019), CB Logan Ryan (4.5 sacks in 219) and DE Cameron Wake (2.5 sacks in 2019) all departed from Tennessee this offseason.
The Titans open the season at Denver on Sept. 14.