As Other Teams Close in, Will Seahawks Make One Last Push for Jadeveon Clowney?
Now more than five months into his elongated free agency tour, the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes may be finally approaching the finish line.
Still remaining unsigned and sitting out training camp, Clowney has patiently played the ultimate waiting game this offseason seeking the right opportunity and compensation. He's reportedly turned down prior offers from the Seahawks, Browns, and other teams, believing he's been low-balled for his talents.
With the regular season set to start in less than a week as the Chiefs and Texans face off next Thursday night, time is running out for Clowney to choose where he will play in 2020. As the clock approaches midnight, a new suitor has emerged as the favorite to land him.
Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Saints are sending an "all-out blitz" in an attempt to sign Clowney, who reportedly has been in contact with coach Sean Payton. A later report from ESPN's Dianna Russini indicated they would be sending a member of the coaching staff to Houston to meet with the star defender.
The Titans also appear to still be in the mix, while the Seahawks apparently are "monitoring" the situation.
From a cap space perspective, New Orleans doesn't have much financial flexibility at the moment to be able to sign Clowney. Per OverTheCap.com, the organization only has $6.995 million cap space and only a portion of that could be allocated to a contract for the veteran defensive end.
But if the Saints really want Clowney, cap space can always be created through cuts and trades. General manager Micky Loomis is likely working the phones trying to move a player or two with significant cap hits to facilitate a signing and team the former Pro Bowler with Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
As for the Titans, coach Mike Vrabel told reporters on Friday morning the team "has an offer out" for Clowney and have been in contact with both the player and his agent. Unlike the Saints, they have more than $20 million in available cap space and have enough flexibility to sign him without making a bunch of additional moves.
Previously serving as defensive coordinator for the Texans, Vrabel worked with Clowney for several seasons, including when he produced a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2017. Given that prior relationship, Tennessee was expected to a contender for his services all along.
With both the Saints and Titans stepping up their efforts to sign Clowney this weekend, the question remains: are the Seahawks still interested?
On Thursday, after being asked by a reporter on whether or not the team could still re-sign Clowney, Carroll smiled and simply said, "Always competing, always competing."
Prior to the start of free agency, Seattle reportedly had a multi-year offer on the table, but Clowney rejected it, believing he would be able to land a deal north of $20 million annually. But with his prior injury history and COVID-19 playing a factor as well as the perception he's not an elite pass rusher, teams weren't near as interested as expected and such an offer never materialized.
As the Seahawks made other moves to fortify their roster during the early stages of free agency, they remained in contact with Clowney and have left the door open to re-sign him. But the initial offer was no longer on the table and per Charles Robinson of Yahoo, their latest offer was a one-year deal worth $12 million.
At this stage, it's unlikely the Seahawks would go much above that previously reported offer. But bringing back Clowney would undoubtedly be a game-changer for the team's defensive line and after trading for Jamal Adams last month, he could be the last missing piece needed to make a Super Bowl run.
While it's anyone's guess at this point what is on Clowney's mind, if the price is right, returning to Seattle would make the most sense on a number of fronts. He enjoyed his time with the team a year ago and already knows the defensive scheme, which would set him up to be ready to play right away and best position him for a big contract in free agency next March.
Currently, Seattle has a little under $15 million in cap room with several options available to create additional room if necessary.
For example, releasing receiver David Moore, who signed an original round tender as a restricted free agent earlier in the offseason, would open up $2.1 million in instant cap space. Though it's unlikely to happen, tight end Jacob Hollister could also be jettisoned to create more than $3 million in cap relief.
If the Seahawks want to make one more run at Clowney, they have the financial means to do so, but they haven't shown a willingness to pay a bit more to make a reunion happen. After having multiple overtures turned down, it's possible they've moved on.
But with another top contender in the NFC now in serious pursuit and the possibility Clowney would allow his former team to match an offer, it would be a surprise if general manager John Schneider doesn't circle the wagon back and make one last counter in the final hour.