Let me be clear — I don’t think it’ll happen.
The Seahawks haven’t even been moderately connected to Jadeveon Clowney since he left in 2020. He was called ‘a priority’ to re-sign after a productive single 2019 season in Seattle. Clowney was inconsistent (as his career has shown) but at his best he also wrecked games — most notably the enthralling win in Santa Clara and the Eagles playoff game.
A breakdown in negotiations occurred and that was it. One and done. He rejected their offers early in free agency then sat out the entire summer. He eventually signed for the Titans days before the 2020 season began. Since then, he’s become a gun for hire — going through the same free agency slow dance every year.
I can’t help but feel he made a mistake not committing to Seattle when, presumably, a reasonable (albeit not record-setting) contract was offered. He’s ended up becoming quite nomadic and the Seahawks were left with a gaping hole on their defensive line. They’ve only just recovered from the way they handled the pass rush during a galling three-year period where the likes of Clowney and Frank Clark departed only to be replaced on the cheap by Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin.
After a couple of years in Cleveland, Clowney is now being linked to the Ravens as he prepares to reach the time of year when he suddenly starts considering his options.
I get the sense bridges have been burned in Seattle. They’ve always been willing to bring players back and yet Clowney doesn’t even get linked.
Regardless, I think it’d be a good move by the Seahawks for a number of reasons.
At the moment Mario Edwards Jr is listed as a starter on the depth chart with Myles Adams at #2. If I’m going to call Clowney nomadic, Edwards is on a different level. He’s had seven teams in eight years. He’s a perfectly adequate depth piece but I’d also argue he’s shown to be very replaceable as a starter.
His average PFF grade over the last five years is 66.2. This is inflated by one really good season he had in 2020, where he achieved an 88.6. Without that one season, his average grade would be 60.5.
In that same five-year span, Clowney’s average grade is 78.7.
It’s a similar story with run defense. Edwards Jr’s five-year average is graded at 63.8 while Clowney’s run-D is a superior 75.9.
If the two players were on the same roster, rotating in, you might be able to get a fair bit out of them. Clowney is 30-years-old now and not the same player he was at his peak in the late 20-teens. Yet he is still capable of producing flashes, wrecking plays and playing stoutly against the run. He’s also versatile enough to be able to play the edge or five-technique.
Teams like the Eagles have shown you can never have too many disruptive pass rushers. They’ve tended to collect them, even when a player is towards the end of his career. Whilst the Seahawks have added nicely to the outside-linebacker rush positions and the addition of Dre’Mont Jones is a major plus — it still feels like they need more to be a truly fearsome defensive unit. There’s no doubt the defensive line is the weakest area of an otherwise attractive looking defense on paper.
Clowney’s position isn’t the biggest need. That is clearly defensive tackle or more specifically, nose tackle. Yet as we’ve discussed recently, those players simply don’t appear to be available on the open market or via trade. Clowney actually is available.
For the last two years he has signed contracts worth $7m and $9.25m guaranteed. The Seahawks only have $11.3m in effective cap space but could incentivise the deal to push money ahead or, god forbid, they could still yet approach Jamal Adams about reducing his back-breaking $18.1m cap-hit when it still remains unclear when he’ll actually be able to take the field.
This isn’t about claiming the 2023 version of Clowney is a saviour, an elite player or someone who will solve every problem. What he is, though, is a player capable of disrupting up front and playing run defense. You’ll never have too many of those — and the Seahawks do still need depth and reinforcement for their defensive line.
It’s absolutely clear they are thin up front. Behind Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones and Mario Edwards Jr are two rookies (Cam Young, Mike Morris) and the second-year Myles Adams. Given how attritional the trenches are, the Seahawks are a couple of injuries away from being incredibly green up front. That could undermine all the work done at linebacker and safety.
Given how much the Seahawks have invested in trying to take the next step this year, I’m kind of left thinking ‘why not?’ when it comes to a Clowney move. There’d be no long-term commitment. It wouldn’t break the bank. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
Maybe bridges have been burned and there’s no going back? Either from Clowney’s perspective or Seattle’s (or both). Maybe they don’t trust his ability to stay healthy or be consistent? Perhaps he’s irked by the 2020 negotiation? This would all be easier to stomach if they had proper depth up front. They don’t. Sometimes, needs must.
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