RENTON — On cutdown weekend a year ago, the Seahawks pulled off a shocking blockbuster trade to bring Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle from Houston after he had sat out all of training camp in a contract dispute with the Texans.
As another cutdown weekend approaches, Clowney’s time in Seattle may officially end — unless the Seahawks can pull off another last-minute surprise.
As Thursday afternoon began to turn into Thursday night, multiple reports from national NFL reporters said the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans are making big pushes for Clowney. The Saints are generally portrayed as the front-runners.
Seattle was said to be “monitoring” the situation, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league’s official media arm. But another report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini seemingly rendered that point moot, saying Clowney’s price “is still too high for Seattle.”
That report came a few hours after another report from Yahoo’s Charles Robinson, who said Seattle’s offer to Clowney is in “the $12 million range.”
That’s down from the $15-16 million the Seahawks are thought to have offered Clowney when he first became a free agent last March but consistent with the conventional wisdom that the Seahawks have continued to leave the door open for Clowney while lowering their offer after making other moves.
Asked after practice Thursday if there was still a chance that the Seahawks could sign Clowney, coach Pete Carroll said “always competing. Always competing.”
But the reports of the Saints suddenly putting on a full-court press — as well as Tennessee remaining interested in Clowney, as it has thought to have been from the start — may mean the Seahawks would have to drastically up their offer to keep him.
The Saints were listed as having just under $7 million in cap space as of Thursday afternoon. But one report said the Saints were in contact with agents of players about restructuring deals to try to create more space to sign Clowney.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has more than $22 million and is coached by Mike Vrabel, Clowney’s position coach and defensive coordinator for four years with the Houston Texans.
The Seahawks have $14 million and the ability to pretty easily create more.
But Seattle’s inability to sign Clowney was never really about cap space but simply a difference in what the Seahawks believed his value to be versus what Clowney believes it to be.
Since the spring, when Seattle first tried to re-sign Clowney, the Seahawks have since made a significant move in trading two first-round picks for safety Jamal Adams, who is expected to get an extension offer after the 2020 season that would likely make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL at more than $15 million a season.
Clowney remains unsigned with the season beginning a week from Sunday (other than for the Thursday night opener featuring the Chiefs and Texans), which is not what anybody anticipated when free agency began, though Clowney showed last year he’s willing to be patient.
The free-agency period began in mid-March just as the COVID-19 outbreak started to get serious, causing the NFL to ban teams from bringing in players for physicals. That is said to have particularly impacted Clowney, who had core muscle surgery following the 2019 season and also had knee surgery in 2014 that teams would want to check out (such trips are now allowed).
The market for Clowney also simply didn’t develop the way he thought it would. Clowney is thought to have hoped for a deal in the $21 million-a-year range, and it’s thought that his best offer is in the $17 million range from Cleveland. Some have thought his lack of huge sack numbers in his career (a high of 9½ with Houston in 2017) is playing a significant factor.
Clowney at one point appeared on a Houston TV station (where he was training in the offseason) to insist he was healthy, with clips showing him going through a few different workouts.
As training camps began in earnest in early August, Clowney was said to be willing to wait and see if some developments around the league, such as an injury, might result in a different opportunity than he’d had so far.
But unless Clowney is willing to miss regular-season games — and the paychecks that come with them — he is running out of time to sign.
Clowney will have to go through the NFL’s COVID-19 testing protocol, which seems to mean he wouldn’t be available to practice with any team until midway through next week.
That could spur some of the interested teams — Jacksonville was also said to be “monitoring” the situation — to give Clowney some take-it-or-leave-it offers pretty quickly.
If Clowney indeed finds one soon that he can’t leave, the book could soon be closed on his Seattle career.
The Seahawks gave up ends/linebackers Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo and a third-round 2020 draft pick to get Clowney (Houston later traded the pick to the Raiders for cornerback Gareon Conley). Seattle also was able to get Houston to pay $7 million of his 2019 salary of $15.9 million, while Clowney was able to get the Seahawks to agree not to use the franchise tag on him.
Clowney played in 13 games for the Seahawks with three sacks and seven tackles for loss, numbers that didn’t necessarily clearly illustrate how disruptive Clowney was, particularly in a pivotal November win at San Francisco.
Clowney suffered the core muscle injury in that game, however, and missed three of the next five games after what was the high-water mark of his first year in Seattle.
The Seahawks may soon find that to have been his one and only.
- The Seahawks held a roughly 90-minute noncontact practice at the VMAC Thursday, which officially wrapped up training camp. Seahawks players will get the next three days off while the team cuts its roster from 80 to 53 by 1 p.m. Saturday.
- Receiver DK Metcalf, who sat out practice Wednesday, was back on Thursday.
- OL Cedric Ogbuehi sat out practice as he had all week. But Carroll said he should be back Monday after suffering what he called “a little bit of a pec strain” in the mock game Sunday.
- TE Stephen Sullivan remains out with what Carroll said is “a hip thing that’s been bothering him.”
- Cornerback Quinton Dunbar was given an excused absence to attend a funeral, Carroll said.
- Carroll said that, while he’d made a decision as to the team’s starting center, he would not make an announcement until next week, when teams will have to release public depth charts. But all signs have pointed to Ethan Pocic winning the job.
- Defensive linemen Bruce Irvin and Jarran Reed also sat out practice. It was not clear if either was injured.