On Monday, the deadline for franchise-tagged players to reach a long-term deal with their teams passed. Every player who anticipated playing under the tag for 2019-20 was signed to a new contract worth more money and years than the tag.
Except Jadeveon Clowney. The Houston Texans didn’t express much interest in negotiating a long-term deal with the Pro Bowl pass rusher. Less than a half-hour after the deadline passed, Adam Schefter reported the NFLPA is anticipated to file a grievance on Clowney’s behalf over the usage of the tag by the Texans.
This is a very interesting case that will set quite a precedent for future franchise tags. No one will argue that Clowney is primarily a defensive end whose only goal is to get to the passer. To that end, if his team wanted to stop him from hitting the open market, they should pay him as a top-tier pass rusher, like any other team who wants to franchise tag one of their best defensive ends. That’s how the NFL chose to set up the system.
But it’s also impossible to dispute that Clowney did indeed spend some time at outside linebacker. His otherworldy athleticism for someone that size means he’ll be moved around any defense, and occasionally slotting him as an OLB to cover backs out of the backfield or giving him a full head of steam at the quarterback is the smart thing to do.
But at what point does Clowney go from being a DE to a DE/OLB? It’s the difference of almost two million dollars, and that’s what the grievance is about. What will be worth watching is how the Texans argue it, and if it works. The problem of player autonomy has been raised regularly in regards to the franchise tag, and especially in light of the player movement going on in the NBA. Who gets to decide what position someone plays? The player or the team? It’s usually a combination of both, but when it comes to money, the two parties will have drastically different goals in mind.
The Texans fired their GM, bungled their search for his replacement, and will now roll into 2019 without an official general manager. This could be the first sign that not having one man in charge of the front office may result in more chaos than progress.