Could we be getting closer to some resolution to the future of Seahawks free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney?
Signs pointed in that direction Wednesday with a report that he is dropping his asking price, which could make a return to Seattle more viable.
Specifically, Dianna Russini of ESPN tweeted that Clowney has “moved off” his “asking price” of $20 million a year or more to a range of $17 million to $18 million.”
Russini further tweeted that doing so “could spark more interest” and that the Titans and Seahawks are “still interested.”
The Titans publicly confirmed that as Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson told reporters during a conference call Wednesday that the team had talked with Clowney’s representatives, confirming previous reports that the team is interested in him.
“We have touched based with Clowney’s representation, too, and just trying to see and navigate and work through where that one might be,” Robinson said.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas also said in a conference call with New York reporters Wednesday afternoon (many teams are holding media events this week because the league meetings were cancelled) that he also has talked to Clowney’s agents and that, “We’re going to do our due diligence on everyone who’s out there — especially at edge rusher.”
But as Wednesday progressed, there was some thought that Clowney dropping his asking price (and the that news becoming public) might be an attempt to try to drum up a bit more interest from teams before Clowney may be forced to make a decision with available spots for defensive ends around the league beginning to run dry.
In fact, while the Titans were stating their interest on Wednesday they were also making a move that made it appear as if they might not have room for Clowney, re-signing linebacker/rush end Kamalei Correa. The Titans earlier signed Vic Beasley to a one-year deal with $9.5 million guaranteed.
That raised the question of whether they would then want to go as high as $17 million to add another pass rusher.
That Clowney was lowering his asking price was obviously going to make it more likely he might re-sign with the Seahawks. But depending on which reports you believe, though, even that lowered range of $17 million to $18 million a year might be more than Seattle has offered Clowney so far. While one report from SI.com stated Seattle offered $18.5 million a year, several others have indicated Seattle’s offer has been more in the range of $13 million to $15 million.
The range of $17 million to $18 million essentially is what the NFL franchise tag price would be for this year for a defensive end, which is $17.78 million, and Clowney may view that as the floor of what he wants after having gotten the Seahawks to agree not to place a franchise tag on him when he was traded to Seattle last September (which he wanted to try to assure he got either a long-term deal from Seattle or would hit free agency).
Clowney has been thought to be willing to wait to get the kind of deal he thinks he deserves, with some rumblings around the league suggesting he could even wait until after the league again allows players to travel to take physicals at team sites. Clowney’s health issues (including core muscle surgery in January) have been thought to be one potential hold-up in his negotiations. The NFL currently is prohibiting players from traveling to take physicals at team facilities.
But since the Seahawks are more familiar with his physical status than any other team, that may also make it easier for a re-signing with Seattle. And if Clowney sees the market continue to dry up, at some point he may have little other choice.
The Titans and Jets were rumored from the start as teams that might be interested in Clowney.
And each has the cap space to fit him in if they really want to. The Jets were listed with roughly $32 million on Wednesday by OvertheCap.com — third-most remaining of the 32 NFL teams — while Tennessee is listed as having more than $23 million.
The Titans also fit Clowney’s stated hope of playing for a winning team, having made it to the AFC title game last season and retaining quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry in the offseason. (The Jets, on the other hand, do not after going 7-9 last season, though they did go 6-2 in the second half of the year).
Seattle is at roughly $15 million after releasing Ed Dickson and waiving Tedric Thompson on Tuesday, moves that opened up $5.1 million in cap space but without accounting for the salary of Bruce Irvin, who is thought to have agreed to a deal for one year in the range of $3 million to $4 million.
But Seattle could make other moves to create cap room, such as releasing center Justin Britt ($8.5 million) or restructuring contracts, so this still comes down to largely an issue of how much the Seahawks want to pay Clowney and what they think his value is. The Seahawks balked last year at paying Frank Clark more than $18 million a year and ended up trading him to Kansas City.
One additional thing the Seahawks will weigh is the ramifications for compensatory draft choices in 2021 for free agents lost. According to Nik Korte of OvertheCap.com, if Clowney were to sign elsewhere, the Seahawks could be in line for a third-round selection.
That would essentially replace the third-rounder in 2020 they traded to Houston as part of the deal that brought Clowney to Seattle, which would make that trade essentially one year of Barkevious Mingo (who just signed with the Bears) and Jacob Martin for one year of Clowney.
That Seattle released/waived Dickson and Thompson on Tuesday raised the inevitable question of if something was imminent with Clowney, or another free agent.
But Tuesday passed without the Seahawks making any other moves, and there was no indication the moves were related to anything with Clowney (ESPN’s Field Yates, in fact, reported Wednesday morning that “things remain largely quiet regarding Jadeveon Clowney.”)
Wednesday marked two weeks since unrestricted free agents could officially begin signing with teams and Clowney remains one of the few marquee players still available.
Seattle made another move Wednesday to improve its pass rush, agreeing to terms with former Seahawk Benson Mayowa, and earlier also brought back another former Seahawk, Bruce Irvin.
But Seattle still needs to make a big-ticket move to revive its pass rush, such re-signing Clowney or bringing in someone such as Everson Griffen.
Wednesday seemed to indicate some things might begin happening sooner rather than later.