Throughout the opening hours of “Free Agency Frenzy’’ on the NFL’s own TV network Monday, Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney was one of the stars of the show without doing anything.
As the league’s “legal tampering’’ period kicked off and teams began making trades and agreeing to contracts, there wasn’t a lot of hard information about the fate of the Seahawks’ top impending free agent.
But there was a lot of speculation, which was only heightened after the 49ers and Colts pulled off a stunning trade at midday, which had San Francisco sending defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for a first-round draft choice, the 13th overall, in 2020.
The Colts then signed Buckner, who is coming off 19½ sacks over the past two seasons and turns 26 Tuesday, to a new contract worth a reported $21 million a season of the four new years on the deal.
That was immediately viewed as setting a floor for any new deal for Clowney, whom Seattle acquired from Houston last Sept. 1 after the Texans had been unable to sign him to a long-term deal.
Almost as quickly, the NFL Network confirmed that idea, reporting that Clowney wants “top of market’’ money, “higher’’ than that of Buckner and the $21 million Dallas handed out last year to edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.
The NFL Network further reported the Jets are among the teams pursuing Clowney while a report from USA Today indicated the Giants — who have been rumored for a while now as a team heavily interested in Clowney — also are “legitimate contenders’’ to sign him.
And a later report from ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted a source as saying Clowney is in no rush to make a decision, stating it could take “some time, days maybe’’ before he signs anywhere.
That, obviously, reinforced the idea that nothing was close with Seattle and that Clowney intends to hit the market, as has been thought ever since it was confirmed last year that Clowney had asked the Seahawks to agree not to place a franchise tag on him this year as a condition of his contract with the team. The franchise tag deadline passed early Monday morning with Clowney indeed not getting tagged.
A little while after Anderson’s report came the revelation of a memo the NFL sent to teams on Monday clarifying some of the changes to the free agent process due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Specifically, teams may not bring in players for visits nor travel to visit a player. Free agents are typically given physicals and given that Clowney is coming off of core surgery to repair an injury suffered last November, teams will have questions. The NFL says it is developing protocols to have players take physicals in their home city or a nearby location, as well as reviewing his records from team with which he last played.
That could possibly put a delay in Clowney’s process of finding a new team.
Add it up, and by the end of the afternoon there seemed to be only more questions about how much of a chance the Seahawks have of re-signing the player who was their best defensive linemen a year ago, especially if rumors/reports are true that Seattle will not want to get involved in a bidding war for Clowney, and wouldn’t want to get much above the $20 million a year range.
Some of the thinking behind the idea that anything in the $20 million-plus range might knock the Seahawks out on Clowney is how Seattle handled the Frank Clark situation a year ago.
The Seahawks seemed OK with the idea of paying Clark in the $17 million to $18 million range, initially giving him a franchise tag that would have paid him $17.1 million last season.
But when Lawrence got $21 million from the Cowboys and Seattle knew that’s what Clark would want to sign a long-term deal, the Seahawks balked and ended up trading Clark to Kansas City for a first-round choice in 2019 and a second rounder this year.
Clark and Clowney are similar ages (Clowney, who turned 27 last month, is about five months older), with similar playing resumes. Clowney’s injury history also may raise some questions — he has played a full 16-game season just once in six years in the NFL.
And not that it’s ever seemed like something the Seahawks think about all that much, but they don’t have to feel as if they have to re-sign Clowney to save face for the trade last fall because what they gave away wasn’t much — defensive ends Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo (with Mingo having been widely expected not likely to make Seattle’s roster) and a 2020 third-round choice.
Seattle could figure it would get the third-round pick back as compensation in 2021 should Clowney sign elsewhere, meaning having had Clowney for a year for Martin and Mingo and the $8 million they had to pay him (the Texans agreed to pay the other $7 million).
All the news came a day after the NFL decided to go ahead with its free agent period despite the novel coronavirus outbreak that is causing disruption to much of American life.
A report from Pro Football Talk stated one complication created by the crisis is that some NFL teams are attempting to defer the paying of signing bonuses later than usual due to the current stock market turndown and attendant economic uncertainty. That’s the kind of thing that could come into play for particularly big-ticket free agents such as Clowney.
The defensive line and pass rush already had been a major issue for Seattle to address this offseason as the Seahawks had just 28 sacks last season even with the addition of Clowney, who had three in 13 games but also had 13 quarterback hits.
But the team has sent a strong signal that one way or the other, it will sign some pass-rushers this spring.
Monday, whether one of those will be Clowney seemed more unclear than ever.
Seahawks tender four
Along with coming to terms on a deal Monday night to keep defensive tackle Jarran Reed Seattle also gave tenders to four restricted free agents to keep them in the fold — receiver David Moore, tight end Jacob Hollister, center Joey Hunt and defensive end Branden Jackson.
The tenders mean Seattle will get the right to match any offers the four would receiver as well as compensation if they signed elsewhere.