NASHVILLE – At best, the Tennessee Titans probably can afford to sign one of them.
They have, however, explored the possibility with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Logan Ryan, two of the biggest free agents on defense still unsigned more than two weeks into the NFL’s new contract year.
“There’s still some things that we’re working through,” general manager Jon Robinson said Wednesday on a conference call. “I have talked to (Ryan’s) representation. I would say there is nothing imminent in the works. And we have touched base with Clowney’s representation too, just kind of seeing and navigate and work through where that one might be.”
Clowney (pictured) is a three-time Pro Bowler who was the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by Houston. He played five seasons with the Texans, all of them when current Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was on the staff there. Houston traded him to Seattle prior to last season.
He reportedly sought a deal worth $20 million or more per season but now has dropped his price to something in the $17-18 million range, according to ESPN on Wednesday afternoon.
Signing the 27-year-old – at any price – is problematic because he underwent offseason surgery to repair a core muscle injury, which was an issue throughout the second half of the season. He finished with just three sacks in 2019 but scored touchdowns on a fumble recovery and an interception return.
Because of issues related to the COVID-19, NFL team doctors are not performing medical checks at this time.
“I would say there’s nothing more important than the health of the players,” Robinson said. “Their ability to go out and play 16 games is important, or at least the games they are healthy enough to play in, that they’re impactful.
“That’s definitely an important part of the decision when you’re looking to sign somebody.”
Ryan has no such issue. He played all 16 games (a first during his three years in Tennessee) and was one of the Titans’ most productive players in 2019. He has said publicly that he is not interested in playing for less than $10 million per season.
The Titans have nearly $24 million of available salary cap space, which is more than all but eight other franchises. A significant portion of that came from the recent trade of five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to Denver.
Robinson noted, however, that those funds have to last beyond just the free agency signing period and that one big contract – for either Clowney or Ryan – might not be the best way to use it.
“We’re working through a couple of guys kind of at the end of free agency here, if you will, as well as preparing for potential guys that you want to extend later on down the road, as well as budgeting for your IR players, replacement players if somebody gets hurt,” Robinson said. “All those things have to be taken into account.”