In his first public comments since the end of last season, free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said in an interview with FOX 26 Houston TV on Tuesday night he has not ruled out returning to the Seahawks.

That was followed Wednesday afternoon by an ESPN report stating that if Clowney were to return he would have to take “significantly less money” than he had previously been offered by the Seahawks. ESPN cited a league source for its report, which stated that a deal between Clowney and the Seahawks is “not considered likely” at this point.

In between those reports came an interview of Seahawks general manager John Schneider with longtime CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore in which Schneider said the team will continue to leave a spot for Clowney on the roster if he wants it.

“He knows the door is not closed,” Schneider said.

In other words, each side is saying there is still a chance, even if unlikely, but any deal may not happen until deep into summer. And whatever the Seahawks’ offer to Clowney was initially is not what it is now.

It’s thought the Seahawks’ best offer to Clowney was in the $15-16 million per year range. But the Seahawks don’t have that offer on the table anymore, due in part to having used ample salary-cap room on other moves, such as signing veteran defensive ends Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin.

Maybe it was knowing that the Seahawks no longer are going to offer what it once did that had Clowney breaking his silence in an interview that also was designed to show the rest of the league that he is well on the way to recovery following surgery after the season to repair a core/sports hernia injury. He suffered that injury during his best game as a Seahawk, an overtime win over the 49ers on Nov. 11 in which he returned a fumble for a touchdown and generally wreaked havoc on a team that ended up in the Super Bowl.

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“I just want to let people know I’m ready,” Clowney said during the interview conducted at a gym in Houston — with lots of shots of him ably going through different exercises.

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Questions about his health — the core surgery as well as his microfracture knee surgery in 2014 — have undoubtedly played a significant role in keeping Clowney unsigned almost seven weeks since the free-agency period opened. His situation was complicated because he could not make visits with teams and take physicals because of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on travel.

Clowney said in the interview that he doesn’t doubt that his health has impacted his free-agent process, saying, “It might have a little more than I expected.”

But Clowney vowed his health won’t be an issue next season saying, “Whoever I sign with is going to get the best version of me.”

And he said he still thinks that “best version of me” can play in Seattle.

“I hope we can work something out if anything happens,” Clowney said of the Seahawks. “I did like it up there. I love Russ (Russell Wilson). I love all the guys I played with. J. Reed (Jarran Reed), B. Jack (Branden Jackson), all them boys in my (defensive) room. I respect them guys.”

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And just in case that point wasn’t heard clearly enough, Clowney also said, “I love Seattle. … I love everyone on the coaching staff.”

During his interview with La Canfora, Schneider reiterated a few points that explain how the two sides have arrived at a stalemate that is almost seven weeks long. The Seahawks made “a strong pitch” to sign Clowney when the free-agent negotiating period began March 16 but set a date that they had to move on and “kind of go about our business and build our team.” That moving on included the signings of Mayowa and Irvin and drafting of Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.

All of that activity means the Seahawks apparently no longer has either the means or the desire to pay Clowney what it was willing to initially.

Schneider seemed to confirm that in his interview with La Canfora, in which he mentioned that not only is cap space an issue but so is cash that is spent each year, and “they work hand in hand.” And neither situation now is the same as it was when the free-agent signing period began.

Schneider also reiterated a point he’s made before — that the Seahawks are always going to want to go into a regular season with some cap space (and cash) still available.

“We are just one of those teams that wants to be active throughout the season as well, so we try to budget accordingly,” Schneider said.

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So, while Seattle will continue to monitor the Clowney situation and hope maybe something can still work out, the Seahawks will only be able to do so much.

When the Seahawks shaved roughly $12 million off their salary cap following the draft with the release of Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker, some speculated the team was readying to sign Clowney. Time has proven that was not the case.

The Seahawks are listed as having just over $21 million of cap room as of Wednesday by OvertheCap.com. But that number doesn’t include the contract of Irvin, which has yet to go through, as well as bonuses for draft picks and keeping money on hand for Injured Reserve, the practice squad and other such items.

Clowney told FOX26 that “I’ve got a few” offers but didn’t go into detail about which teams may have offered what. Mark Berman of FOX26 reported that sources say the Browns, Ravens, Titans and Eagles have expressed interest.

In fact, Tom Pelissero of The NFL Network reported Wednesday afternoon that Clowney “has turned down some strong offers,” with John Clayton of ESPN 710 Seattle reporting that Miami may have offered Clowney up to $18.5 million at one point.

But Clowney further confirmed what has been widely speculated — that he’s willing to wait things out until he can take some physicals and show teams that he is healthy, which he thinks might result in even better offers.

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“I know what’s going on in the world (with coronavirus),” he said. “It’s a slow process until teams can see me, and see what I got and can give me physicals and everything. So I ain’t in no rush. I’m just waiting on the right opportunity.”

While some in Seattle may have hoped the Seahawks could offer enough to prevent Clowney from going to free agency in the first place, it’s obvious that hitting free agency had been his plan all along. He asked the team to agree not to place the franchise tag on him as a condition of the contract he signed following his trade from Houston the week before the 2019 season.

Clowney said that when the free-agency period began in March he “was getting fed up with it. It was nerve-wracking.”

But he said he eventually realized he needed to only worry to “control what you control,” and he seemed willing to be patient.

“I’m just waiting on the right opportunity and the right timing for me,” he said.

In his interview with La Canfora, Schneider seemed to confirm he expects Clowney to wait a while to do anything, saying that the unique nature of this offseason — teams can only do work virtually — may mean many remaining free agents might hold off on decisions until restrictions lift.

“It’s been such an odd offseason with all these free agents,” Schneider said. “… There’s not a ton of urgency, it doesn’t seem, at this point this year.”

So for now, the wait continues.