Jadeveon Clowney was as hyped as any prospect in recent memory heading into the 2014 NFL draft. Five years later, Clowney hasn’t become the top-tier edge threat many believed he could be, but has developed into a solid player at the very least. Health is his biggest question; it feels like Clowney has been on the verge of a “breakout” season every year since 2015, but has always been hindered by one injury or another, even if his missed games count isn’t as high as others.
At only 26, however, there’s still a lot to like about Clowney. The Houston Texans may be tired of his act; he has yet to sign his franchise tag or report to camp, and the rumors concerning his imminent departure have run rampant. The price would be optimally at least one first-round pick, but given the price of edge rushers was set this summer at a second-round pick with the trades of Dee Ford and Frank Clark, they may have to settle for less. Here are four teams who may be interested in taking on Clowney for at least the following year.
The Eagles shipped off a key member of their defensive line in Michael Bennett earlier in the offseason, and replacing him with Clowney would be a smart move by a team with a notably savvy front office. Philadelphia, perhaps better than any other team in the league, grasps the importance of a deep and talented pass rushing rotation. Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and Fletcher Cox is one hell of a three-headed monster, but good players behind them are crucial to ensuring they’re healthy for the playoffs.
Clowney has a similar level of versatility to the Eagles’ trio of defensive linemen, and would help prevent a big drop-off when they come off the field. It seems unlikely Philadelphia is inspired to invest big money in Clowney after a hefty extension for Carson Wentz, but sending off a third-round pick for reinforcements at one of the league’s most important positions is a move Philly wants to make if they want to repeat their playoff success of two years ago.
The Colts were frugal spenders this offseason after many thought they’d be the biggest players, entering free agency with over $100 million in cap room. They resisted the temptation to throw their money around for players who may not deserve it, and ended up signing Justin Houston to a two-year, $24 million deal as their most expensive indulgence. Most of that money is still free, and could be spent on Clowney. The Colts don’t have a consistent pass-rush option, and really haven’t had one since Dwight Freeney. Clowney would provide run support that Houston does not at this point in his career, and his timeline pairs well with an up-and-coming Colts defense.
GM Chris Ballard has proved to be a bit of a hoarder with assets, so he won’t be sending off a boatload of picks for Clowney, and Houston would much rather send him outside the conference, much less the division. Still, the Texans literally don’t have a GM right now, and their path forward is unclear. As odd as it may seem to the rest of us to keep Clowney in the division, if all they want is to get something for Clowney, it’s a real possibility.
The Ravens lost a few key members of their defense to free agency; C.J. Mosley, Za'Darius Smith, and eternal Raven Terrell Suggs all departed for new pastures. Clowney would help them re-up on defense and give them a younger piece that would be a foundational piece of the next generation of Ravens defenders. Baltimore is good enough to make the playoffs right now, but not good enough to get very far. An elite defense to pair with their young leader in Lamar Jackson is the clearest path towards true contention. Clowney doesn’t automatically make them an elite defense, but combined with their talent in the secondary and some hungry young guys in the middle, he’d help immensely.
Clowney is athletic enough to perform all the responsibilities Baltimore asks of their outside linebackers, and is good enough to come in and help immediately. Jackson may need time to grow, but time is a luxury John Harbaugh and co. don’t really have. A move for Clowney would go a long way towards solidifying their place as a top contender in the AFC.
In the most optimistic year in decades for the Browns, why not go as all-in as possible? The Browns have a well-rounded roster on both sides of the ball with young and talented players ready to make the leap. The one thing they’re missing is a running mate across Myles Garrett. By acquiring Clowney, they’d have two of the most physically talented prospects to come into the league this century, which counts for something. Garrett is developing into an elite pass rusher, and Clowney would feast on most one-on-one matchups with right tackles across the league.
Alternatively, any extra attention Clowney can garner would benefit Garrett immensely, who hasn’t had a teammate to take the heat off him in such a manner. The Browns don’t have as much draft capital as most other teams, but now is as good a time is any to take a risk. Clowney would be expensive, but it’s the kind of move you make when your team is taking the leap to legitimate contenders.