It's a Bit Irresponsible, but the Kansas City Chiefs Should Pursue Jadeveon Clowney
The 2019 NFL season is a distant memory for the Kansas City Chiefs. They are now fully focused on their "Run it Back" campaign. As Arrowhead Report's Mark Van Sickle put it: "it seems like their main competition may be COVID-19." With almost all of its championship core returning amidst a global pandemic, the experience and familiarity within the organization cannot be understated this year.
Something else that will come in handy: unused cap space. As a result of an Alex Okafor restructuring and three players opting out of the 2020 season, the Chiefs have brought their available fund up to around $14 million. Once any of those contracts resume, they will go back onto the books, presumably in 2021. This, combined with the uncertainty surrounding next year's salary cap ceiling, makes keeping that money and rolling it over to 2021 a very logical route to take. But that isn't nearly as fun as...
Going after Jadeveon Clowney.
Yes, the same Clowney who was picked first overall in 2014. Yes, the same Clowney who has played a full 16-game season just once in his career. And yes, the same Clowney who produced three sacks in 13 games with the Seattle Seahawks last season. I know what you're thinking, but it isn't what it looks like.
Despite being banged up several times over the course of his career, Clowney remains an athletic specimen and should now be entering his prime at 27 years old. Of his 13 appearances with Seattle in 2019, 11 of them were starts. His sack numbers are hard to justify, but when you look at the rest of his stats from last year, he compares fairly well to the Chiefs' two best defensive linemen.
(Data via Pro Football Reference.)
Don't get it twisted: Clowney can still rush the passer. In 2017 and 2018, he recorded at least nine sacks and 20 quarterback hits. His performance in a contract season last year was certainly underwhelming, but the bigger picture is what's more important. He's displayed the ability to be a plus-pass-rusher. Clowney's true bread and butter comes against the run, though.
Thanks to Pro Football Focus and Arrowhead Report's Sam Hays, we can further contextualize just how well-rounded Clowney is. He's posted a run defense grade of at least 80 in each of his last five seasons. This includes a downright scary 91.5 mark in 2018, which was the best all-around season of Clowney's career. Even when injuries have piled up and Clowney's effectiveness as a pass-rusher has been brought into question, he's remained a top run defender in the league. That doesn't happen on accident.
The Chiefs have already been reached out to about Clowney in the past, but were dead set on acquiring defensive end Frank Clark. Now that Clark is a fixture along the defensive line, would adding a dynamic threat on the opposite side of him make sense? Okafor and Tanoh Kpassagnon, as well as Breeland Speaks and possibly Taco Charlton, already factor into the defensive end picture. Adding Clowney would make an already-crowded room even more saturated.
With that said, not many players have the versatility and pure talent that Clowney possesses. Not only would he step in and immediately improve a run defense that ranked 26th in the league a season ago, but he'd become the newest member of Clark and Jones' famous "Sack Nation." Steve Spagnuolo's defense allowed just 11 points per game from Week 11 until the end of the regular season. It should only continue to gel together more over time — and Clowney should be a part of that growth.
Sure, Everson Griffen and Logan Ryan are still on the market, and they're both great players. Could the Chiefs use some help in the secondary? Sure. But a secondary's life is much easier when it has a tantalizing defensive line in front of it. Imagine the havoc Clark and Clowney could wreak with Jones on the interior. The only problem? Money.
If Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has been playing Madden's franchise mode to this point in the offseason, he will have to take his recruiting pitch to the next level for this one. Could Clowney be swayed into coming to Kansas City? He'd be surrounded by great players and coaches and would be able to compete for a championship. Everyone likes a winner, and Clowney would be wise to hit the 2021 free agent market under the best circumstances possible.
Clowney would likely command most — or all — of the $14-ish million the Chiefs have at their disposal. Is having the best defensive line in football, strengthening the case for a second consecutive Super Bowl ring and receiving a compensatory draft selection in 2021 worth it? Sounds like a solid deal to me. If Veach has taught us anything in an otherwise-bleak 2020, it's that he can work around just about any financial restrictions. The Chiefs should make it happen and make offensive coordinators just as terrified as defensive coordinators already are when they prepare to face the Chiefs in 2020.