As day four of the NFL free-agency negotiating/signing period opened Thursday, the Seahawks’ biggest question — the fate of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — became one that may not be answered for far longer than anticipated.
While almost all of the top free agents were already spoken for — either re-signing with their own team or agreements with new ones — there was little buzz about Clowney other than that he’s waiting for the market for his services to develop the way he hoped.
And potentially willing take his chances and wait for that to happen.
During an NFL Network roundtable discussion of Clowney’s situation Thursday, Mike Garafolo reported he has an offer on the table from the Seahawks (no surprise there), but it’s one that’s not what he had been hoping to get.
What’s Clowney hoping to get? Likely something in the five-year range, at least meeting, if not topping, $20 million a year, with initial thoughts that he was hoping to get the $21 million a year or so that would put him at the top of the defensive end market.
Garafolo said Clowney is hoping other teams will “engage’’ with him about a new deal, “and see if the Seahawks will raise their price a little bit.’’ But NFL Network reported that while Clowney has continued to speak to teams other than the Seahawks “he has not gotten close’’ to the number he had been seeking.
Fellow analyst/reporter Tom Pelissero responded that Clowney would just “wait and see if eventually teams’ money comes up’’ and cited the example of Ndamukong Suh in 2018 when he did not sign until roughly two weeks after the negotiating period began.
Simply put, the consensus around the league is that the market for Clowney simply hasn’t developed the way he envisioned.
There are a couple potential reasons for that:
- Clowney’s health and the complications to get a physical done because of the coronavirus outbreak. Clowney had surgery in January to repair a core muscle injury suffered last November, and has had a few other ailments throughout his career. Contracts are completed pending physicals conducted by team physicians. Players can have physicals done by a neutral doctor where they are — Clowney is said to be in Houston — but especially for really expensive free agents, teams may be wary of that.
- A debate over how much Clowney is worth. Even if this had been a normal free-agency year it’s unclear if Clowney would have gotten offers on par with the top edge rushers/ends in the league, such as DeForest Buckner and DeMarcus Lawrence, each at $21 million per season. As Pro Football Focus put it in its assessment of Clowney, who had three sacks last season: “Pass rushers earn massive contracts for their ability to get after the quarterback, but Clowney has always been good, not great, in that department. The price tag may be too high for many teams, but Clowney brings top run defense and solid pass-rush to the table, though his game has never really lived up to his draft hype and he’s never matched the production of other dominant edge defenders.’’
Exactly what the Seahawks’ offer is remains unclear, but it’s likely more in the $17 million to $19 million range, and possibly for fewer years. They have mostly resisted contracts longer than four seasons in recent seasons. The Seahawks have generally tried to adhere to giving an offer and sticking with it and not getting caught in bidding wars.
As many around the league have begun to note, at some point the Seahawks may have to move on. There’s a thought that a few teams are waiting to see what happens with Clowney before making moves on other defensive ends.
The Seahawks have agreed to terms with Bruce Irvin and re-signed tackle Jarran Reed. But the Seahawks need to do much more to beef up a pass rush that had just 28 sacks last season and have been known exploring options far and wide.
So who else is available?
Here are a few names:
- Clay Matthews: The Rams released Matthews in a cost-cutting move Thursday afternoon. Matthews will be 34 in May. But he had eight sacks last season in 614 snaps and played for coach Pete Carroll at USC, who has always considered him something of a personal favorite. As a one-year, relatively cheap option the Seahawks could do worse.
- Everson Griffen: Griffen may be the biggest name left among free-agent defensive ends other than Clowney. There’s a thought that he may still end up back with the Vikings. But for now he remains available, and he’s another former USC player who Carroll knows well.
- Yannick Ngakoue: Ngakoue is not a free agent as he received a franchise tag from the Jaguars, guaranteeing him a salary of $19.3 million for 2020. But trade rumors remain because of his desire for a long-term contract. Garafolo said Thursday that there is nothing going on with Ngakoue due to the combination of what the Jaguars want (said to be at least a first-round pick) and Ngakoue’s salary demands. This situation is likely to last a while.
- Matt Judon: Judon also recently received a franchise tag from the Ravens for roughly $16 million. But like Ngakoue, rumors that the Ravens may try to trade him persist. And the Seahawks would obviously be interested.
- Cameron Wake: A five-time Pro Bowler, Wake is now 38 years old but had six sacks two years ago for the Dolphins and could be a one-year, inexpensive option.
- Pernell McPhee: Played last year with the Ravens and was limited to seven games due to a triceps injury. He’s also 32. He played with K.J. Wright at Mississippi State and is another who could be a one-year, inexpensive option to take a shot on and see what happens.