Malik McDowell always will be remembered as maybe the most ill-fated high draft choice in Seahawks history.
But McDowell, a defensive tackle who never played a down for Seattle after being injured in an ATV accident, is getting a chance to write a happier ending to his NFL story, signing Monday with the Cleveland Browns.
The signing was confirmed on NFL transactions and in a statement released by the Browns.
Seattle chose McDowell in the second round at No. 35 after moving down from the 26th overall selection in the 2017 draft, acquiring four other picks in the process, one of which was used on running back Chris Carson.
McDowell was just 20 years old at the time Seattle chose him after leaving Michigan State following his junior season. McDowell had been considered by some as being a potential top-10 choice heading into the 2016 college season, but his stock slipped after an inconsistent year on the field that raised some questions about his maturity and readiness for the NFL.
Those fears seemed confirmed when McDowell suffered head and facial injuries in an ATV accident in his native Michigan in the summer of 2017.
McDowell had taken part in a Seattle rookie minicamp in the spring of 2017 but otherwise never again put on a Seahawks uniform following the accident.
While there was much mystery about the accident, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at one point referred to McDowell as suffering a “really bad concussion.” And one of his former agents, Drew Rosenhaus, said in 2019 that McDowell suffered “a brain injury, a head injury.”
McDowell was finally released by the Seahawks in March 2019 with Carroll saying team doctors would not clear him to play.
That made him the highest draft choice in team history never to play for the Seahawks.
“The doctors wouldn’t let him play,” Carroll said at the NFL league meetings in 2019. “… He had an accident that he was injured and they couldn’t clear him.”
But Rosenhaus said at those same meetings that independent doctors had cleared McDowell — something Carroll said in response surprised him to hear, facetiously referring to Rosenhaus as “Dr. Drew” — and McDowell had a visit that year with the Dallas Cowboys. He also reportedly had a workout last year with Miami.
According to independent football reporter Aaron Wilson, McDowell’s new agent, William Farah, said several neurologists have cleared McDowell to play, including the Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor, David Okonkwo.
McDowell also encountered some legal issues along the way. In November 2019, McDowell was sentenced to 11 months in jail by Oakland County (Michigan) Circuit Court after he pleaded guilty to multiple charges. The sentence covered two separate incidents in which McDowell was charged with receiving and concealing stolen property (a Ford truck McDowell said he got for $3,000) and operating a vehicle while intoxicated and resisting arrest and assault.
In a statement, Browns general manager Andrew Berry said the team feels confident McDowell, now 24 years old, is ready to turn a new page.
“We are certainly aware of Malik’s past, as we have done extensive work on him for the last two months,” Berry said in a statement. “… We believe Malik is in a good place personally and medically. He has taken the necessary steps to get on a healthy path.”
McDowell will join a Cleveland defensive line that also includes former Seahawk Jadeveon Clowney.