Has Jadeveon Clowney Already Priced Himself Out of Return to Seahawks?
Speaking with reporters following a 28-23 defeat to the Packers at Lambeau Field last month, Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made his intentions clear for free agency. Playing for a contender would take preference above everything else, including money.
“I just want to win,” Clowney said. "I'm trying to get to the Super Bowl by any means. That's what I'm looking for: Who's going to get me there? I ain't looking to get on no sorry team for no money. That ain't going to fly. I ain't gonna put my body through all of that just to lose no 16 games, go home with my check. I'd hate that, so that ain't what I'm doing.”
But with the start of the new league year now just one month away, Clowney's tune appears to have changed. Per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, in addition to wanting to play for a contender, the 26-year old defender expects to sign a "market-setting contract."
Is it possible Clowney can enjoy both worlds signing with a viable Super Bowl contender while also becoming the highest-paid defensive end in the game? Maybe, but it's not likely to be in Seattle.
When the Seahawks traded for Clowney back in August, general manager John Schneider knew he was taking on a significant risk. The former No. 1 overall pick wouldn't sign off on the trade without Schneider promising not to use the franchise tag in March, allowing him the opportunity to hit free agency for the first time. There was always the possibility he would be a one-year rental.
Star players of Clowney's pedigree rarely get the chance to test the market. In fact, looking at the five largest contracts for defensive players in the NFL, none of those players ever sniffed free agency.
Just last spring, Seattle couldn't reach a long-term agreement with defensive end Frank Clark after placing the franchise tag on him. As part of a trade with Kansas City, he signed a five-year, $104 million deal. In Dallas, Demarcus Lawrence refused to sign his franchise tag tender, but both sides eventually reached a five-year, $105 million deal.
Before the 2018 season, disgruntled star Khalil Mack held out in Oakland, leading to a blockbuster trade to Chicago. As part of the deal, he signed a six-year, $141 million contract with the Bears. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald also used a hold out to facilitate a new deal for six years and $135 million.
Two of the aforementioned players were able to coax trades by either refusing to attend training camp or signing a franchise tag, while the other two managed to receive deals from their original teams. There wasn't a bidding war for their services in free agency and yet, all of them are making at least $20 million per year, with Mack leading the pack raking in $23.5 million per year.
FILM BREAKDOWN: Jadeveon Clowney proved to be a game-wrecker in Seattle's Week 10 win over San Francisco at Levis Stadium.
Statistically, Clowney hasn't been on par with Mack, Donald, Lawrence, or Clark, at least from a pass rushing standpoint. He's never registered more than 9.5 sacks in a single season and only had 3.0 sacks in 2019, while the other four players have combined to produce double-digit sacks in 11 seasons.
But despite the underwhelming production compared to his peers, many expect Clowney will be able to land the market-setting deal he desires. He just turned 27 on Valentines Day and though he hasn't met lofty expectations coming out of South Carolina, his freakish athleticism and skill set will surely set off a bidding war between numerous suitors who believe his best football is ahead of him.
As a result? Even coming off surgery to repair a core injury, Clowney has unprecedented leverage and should have no problem at least matching Mack's contract. And with teams throwing empty checks at him, he'll likely reset the market by making a push towards a $150 million contract.
Since the offseason is all about speculation and smoke screens from agents, there's still a chance Clowney will prioritize playing for a contender over the bottom line. If that's the case, Seattle has ample cap space, one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, and plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, keeping the team in the mix to retain him.
But if money ultimately becomes the deciding factor, you can count Schneider and the Seahawks out, meaning they will have to accept him leaving for greener pastures without any guaranteed compensation and look at other alternatives to address their pass rush.