In what might be the latest sign that the odds of Jadeveon Clowney returning to the Seahawks are growing slimmer by the day, a report Saturday stated that the Cleveland Browns have “shown interest” in him and may have given him the best offer he has received so far.
The report, from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, stated further that “some people around (the) league believe Cleveland got closer with Clowney than other suitors, though nothing ultimately happened from recent talks. Seattle’s offer hasn’t been what Clowney wants.”
There has been speculation for a while that the Browns could make a run at Clowney, but the ESPN report was the most specific to date detailing Cleveland’s interest.
A report later Saturday afternoon from Cleveland.com stated that the Browns “have been monitoring the situation with Clowney” but haven’t wanted to pay his $20 million asking price.
But, obviously, neither has Seattle, and there continue to be no indications that the Seahawks are willing to budge, with Seattle sending a little sign that it is moving on to fill out its defensive line when it signed Benson Mayowa last week.
The Browns don’t necessarily fit Clowney’s stated goal of wanting to play for a contender after going 6-10 last season. But the Browns remain a talented team that a year ago at this time was a chic pick to make the play0ffs and Clowney would be convinced he could help close that gap.
Cleveland also has the most cap space remaining of any NFL team at just over $43 million, according to OvertheCap.com.
The Browns also could pretty easily clear out a lot of cap space to make room for Clowney by releasing veteran defensive end Olivier Vernon — the Browns could save all of the $15.5 million Vernon is owed this year by releasing him either before or after June 1.
Vernon, who is entering the final year of his contract, was considered something of a disappointment last year in his first season with Cleveland with 3.5 sacks while being limited to 10 games due to a late-season knee injury.
Cleveland could just view it as a potential trade of Vernon for Clowney.
One other interesting dynamic that adds to the idea that the Browns could be a serious suitor is that Clowney has the same agent as Cleveland standout defensive end Myles Garrett, who like Clowney was a first overall pick in the NFL draft (Clowney in 2014 out of South Carolina and Garrett in 2017 out of Texas A&M).
Garrett has one year left on his rookie contract but the Browns could also exercise a fifth-year option on him to retain his rights through the 2021 season. And one thought is that the Browns could well see Clowney on the idea of teaming with Garrett to help revive a Cleveland team that has not been to the playoffs since 2003.
Seattle had made it a priority to beef up its pass rush after a 2019 season in which the Seahawks had just 28 sacks, tied for second-fewest in the NFL, and retaining Clowney was viewed as being at the center of that effort.
But Clowney has now gone almost three weeks without a resolution to his future with a a growing thought around the league that he is willing to wait potentially months to get the kind of deal he wants (specifically, potentially waiting until he could travel to team sites to take physicals).
Cleveland, though, could present an option that could force a decision, though as Fowler’s report made clear, nothing appears imminent. Seattle, meanwhile, may have to decide soon to do more to fill out its pass rush, such as maybe making a run at free agent Everson Griffen.