Jadeveon Clowney remains the biggest prize of the free agent market. And with the New York Jets still looking for a pass rusher and with the requisite cap space, it would seem that Clowney could be a good fit.
Or, maybe not.
Let’s get the details out of the way. Clowney is a free agent with production and while he had just three sacks in 11 games last season for the Seattle Seahawks, he is coming off seasons in 2018 (9) and 2017 (9.5) where he was among the league leaders in sacks. He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection for a reason.
All this makes him an intriguing fit for the Jets. Throughout free agency and the NFL Draft, general manager Joe Douglas has clearly targeted players who are either under the radar and on the rise in their careers or players who might have a knock or two against them and have something to prove.
Clowney, coming off a disappointing 2019 with Seattle, certainly could be a steal. Originally, it was reported that Clowney wanted to be paid as an elite edge rusher at $20 million per season. Now that the number seems to be creeping down, it would seem to make sense that he could become more and more attractive to the Jets.
“If they still want to improve the pass rush, it may have to get done with scheme ingenuity. Clowney is still out there but I don't think [he’s] a fit,” said Randy Mueller.
“I think he wants to go to a more playoff ready team (Seattle) and he isn't exactly a leader or culture changer in the locker room. He can rush the passer but is inconsistency exudes the rest of his game on and off the field.”
Mueller is a former general manager of the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins. He also spent a decade with the San Diego Chargers as their vice president for football operations, a post he left in 2018.
The issue is that even at $17 million a season (Clowney’s reportedly lowered his asking price before the NFL Draft), he still wasn’t going to be a tremendous value for the Jets 3-4. Even at $15 million, the price the Seahawks seem prepared to pay, Clowney would still be a stretch.
Currently, the Jets are sitting on an estimated $25 million in salary cap space. That will be used for their draft class (eight picks) and potentially to sign safety Jamal Adams to a long-term contract, one that likely will make him the top paid safety in the league.
The answer to their pass rush issues might already be on the roster. They need to do something, a defensive line that was good against the run but struggled to get into the pocket and get after the quarterback.
The Jets did take Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, a player who was hit with injuries last year but was on pace to be a top 50 pick in the draft. Investing in pass rusher opposite Zuniga would be bold and wise for the balance of the defense, but Clowney’s injuries last year and lower production are cause for concern.
He isn’t worth that $17 million. For a playoff team, he could be a good fit at $15 million. The Jets simply can’t make that kind of investment at this point in their rebuild.
Now if Clowney’s asking price continues to drop, he could be a good value for the Jets. Right now, however, he clearly isn’t the make and model of Douglas’ recent free agent signings. at that price point.
If he is willing to sign a one-year 'Prove It' deal, however, Clowney could absolutely upgrade the Jets defense. Just not at the current price point, however.