As the Jadeveon Clowney watch lingered Saturday, the Seahawks set their initial 53-man roster for the 2020 season without him.
And as Saturday afternoon turned into Saturday night, it finally became official that the Seahawks will have to play the 2020 the season without him, as well.
After a day of conflicting reports whether Clowney had chosen a team, it finally became official late Saturday night when Clowney told Josina Anderson that he had chosen the Tennessee Titans. The Titans announced the deal on Sunday morning, and NFL Media reported that Clowney had agreed on a one-year deal worth up to $15 million. That was said to be $2 million more than the highest offer given him by the Saints.
Anderson reported Clowney as saying he chose the Titans because “it came down to familiarity over economics.”
That familiarity is Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, who was an assistant with the Houston Texans for four seasons when Clowney was there, including three years as linebackers coach and another as defensive coordinator, years in which Clowney had career-best sack totals of nine and 9.5.
That may be especially critical in Clowney’s mind now that he has gotten a one-year deal and then hits free agency again next season at the age of 28, hoping he has had the kind of year in Tennessee he can parlay into a blockbuster contract a year from now. NFL Media reported the Titans have indicated Clowney will have the chance to cash in big with him next year depending on how this season goes.
It was a year ago this weekend that Clowney had been traded by Houston to Seattle while locked in a contract dispute with the Texans.
Seattle agreed not to place a franchise tag on Clowney as part of the condition of the trade, which assured he would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Still, there was heavy optimism that Clowney would re-sign with Seattle as he said several times during the season how much he was enjoying playing for the Seahawks and wanted to play with a team that had a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.
He also always made it clear, though, he would consider all options.
When the free agency period began on March 18, it’s thought Seattle gave him the best offer he had to that point, in the $15-16 million per year range (he is thought to have later turned down an offer from Cleveland at $17 million).
But Clowney wanted in the $21 million a year range, on par with the best pass rushers in the NFL, which no one initially was offering.
Then, things got complicated as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, which meant NFL players couldn’t make trips to teams for physicals — especially critical in the case of Clowney, who had sports hernia surgery after last season and also had knee microfracture surgery in 2014.
Clowney’s market also simply didn’t develop the way he thought since he has not had a double-digit sack season, which is typically what it takes to get the kind of huge deal he wanted. That, combined with health concerns, kept him on the market far longer than anyone thought.
Seattle eventually dropped its offer to Clowney after deciding it had to move on to fill other needs, and it’s generally thought the Seahawks’ final offer was in the $12 million range.
As the cutdown weekend neared, rumors about Clowney’s situation rose anew, with reports that he met with New Orleans coach Sean Payton Friday night and that the Saints might be the front-runner.
Then came a report Saturday afternoon from ESPN that he had chosen the Titans. Typifying the mercurial nature of everything Clowney-related this offseason, though, that report was quickly refuted by a few others that said Clowney had yet to make up his mind, leaving his future seeming still uncertain
Seattle always appeared on the outside looking in the last few days, generally said to be “monitoring” the situation — or, basically, hoping somehow to still get involved at the kind of price it wanted to pay.
The contract came as reports also broke, via Pro Football Talk, earlier in the day that Clowney had fired his agent, Bus Cook. It was unclear when that firing came and if it would impact his signing.
But in Seattle, that news gave some hope that maybe Clowney would reconsider his options.
Instead, Clowney is now assuredly gone, with Seattle not even getting a third-round comp pick, which it had thought all along would be the least of what it would garner if he went elsewhere (the deadline for that was April).
And Anderson’s report indicates that it was solely a two-team race at the end between the Titans and Saints, with Seattle appearing to have been a distant memory.
So, soon, may be Clowney’s one year — and 13 regular season games — in Seattle.
It was a tantalizing time, with Clowney giving a performance in a win at San Francisco in November that some felt was the maybe the most impact a Seahawks defender had ever made in one game, a performance that included a fumble return for a touchdown that sparked a Seahawks comeback that turned an early 10-0 deficit into a 27-24 overtime win.
But Clowney was hurt in that game, suffering the injury that would require the sports hernia surgery, and that injury undoubtedly helped influence the offer Seattle ultimately gave him.
There was some thought that Clowney was a little taken aback that the Seahawks initial offer wasn’t the blockbuster he expected it to be and that relations between the two sides were never quite the same.
Clowney, though, wasn’t all the news for the Seahawks on Saturday as cutdown day provided its own surprises, specifically Seattle’s decisions to release veteran receiver Paul Richardson and waive third-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin.
Richardson, the team’s first pick in the 2014 draft, returned to the team last week in the wake of injuries to a few other receivers. But he was limited throughout in practices last week, appearing to take part in 11-on-11 drills only one day.
“It’s been tough for Paul,” coach Pete Carroll said Thursday. “He just hadn’t had a chance yet. … Just wasn’t much of a ramp up for him to show where he is.”
Richardson signed a one-year deal for up to $1.04 million that included a $75,000 bonus, the only money he may now receive as the Seahawks kept six other receivers without him, including rookie Freddie Swain.
Griffin, meanwhile, lost out in the battle to stick on a linebacking corps that coaches say is one of the deepest the team has had in years.
Griffin was entering his third year with the Seahawks and was working as a backup strongside linebacker behind Bruce Irvin and as a situational pass rusher.
But Seattle also can use Cody Barton at the SLB spot as he started there four games last season in the absence of Mychal Kendricks. The Seahawks could also experiment with using first-round pick Jordyn Brooks there, though he has mostly been used at weakside linebacker so far in camp. Seattle also kept Ben Burr-Kirven — who plays the inside spots — as a backup linebacker.
Seattle also may not use the strongside linebacker position as much this year as it did last season as it has gone with Marquise Blair as the nickel back, and could be in a nickel defense much more often than in 2019, a scheme in which the strongside backer comes off the field.
The Seahawks, though, undoubtedly hope Griffin can return to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
NFL teams are allotted 16 practice-squad spots this season so Griffin and any other waived draft pick will be candidates to land on the PS assuming they clear waivers. Teams will learn Sunday if players have cleared waivers and can start signing players back to the PS then.
Griffin worked as a backup linebacker as well as in a situational pass-rushing package last season. He has one start, that coming in the first game of his rookie season in 2018 at Denver when he started at weakside linebacker in place of an injured K.J. Wright, and has 16 tackles in two NFL seasons and a sack in the playoff loss last year at Green Bay.
Here are a few other highlights of cutdown day for the Seahawks:
No word yet on Josh Gordon
When the Seahawks signed receiver Josh Gordon on Thursday there was a thought the league would soon rule on his hoped-for reinstatement. But no word came Saturday and for now he remains on the suspended list and was not on the team’s 53-man roster.
No undrafted free agents make it
Among the players waived by Seattle were all eight undrafted rookie free agents who had remained on the roster.
Seattle has typically had at least one make it — in fact, exactly one UDFA has made the initial 53-man roster the past three years, including defensive linemen Bryan Mone and Poona Ford the past two seasons. But the lack of preseason games may have made it difficult for younger players to make a strong case.
Most, if not all, figure to be strong contenders to end up on the practice squad, and it’s worth remembering that some players signed as UDFAs who have made big impacts for the Seahawks in the past were initially waived and then put on the practice squad before landing on the active roster, such as receiver Jermaine Kearse.
All but one draft pick makes it
Of the team’s eight picks in the 2020 draft only one was waived — tight end Stephen Sullivan, who was the team’s final pick in the seventh round at 251 overall. Sullivan has battled a hip injury in practice and also was at one of the team’s deepest positions. The Seahawks hope to retain him on the practice squad.
Five draft picks made the roster — Brooks, guard Damien Lewis, running back DeeJay Dallas, defensive end Alton Robinson and Swain.
Two others are on the non-football Injury list — defensive end Darrell Taylor and tight end Colby Parkinson.
That means each is eligible to return after six weeks (Seattle has a bye following its fifth game this year).
Parkinson is recovering from a foot injury suffered in conditioning in June. The team has four other veteran tight ends, which allows for the Seahawks to be patient with his return.
Taylor is recovering from surgery in January to place a rod in his leg after dealing with a stress fracture last year at Tennessee. Carroll said last week there is no real timeline for when Taylor will return.
David Moore re-works deal to stay in Seattle
One lingering question — the fate of David Moore and his $2.13 million salary — was answered early Saturday as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Moore had agreed to a restructured contract and will stay in Seattle. A source confirmed the news to The Seattle Times.
There were no immediate terms available, but it was expected Moore will make less on what is a one-year deal, which means Moore will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Moore’s previous deal was a restricted free-agent contract and the money was not guaranteed.
Due to Phillip Dorsett’s lingering sore foot, Moore had emerged as the number three receiver in recent practices.
Moore is entering his fourth season and last year caught 17 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
Two veteran surprises who made it — Luke Willson and Linden Stephens
Willson obviously has a long history with the Seahawks and it was a popular move with fans and in the locker room when he returned last season.
But the Seahawks have a pretty loaded tight-end room and it was tempting to wonder if Willson could make it again. He did, thanks to Seattle deciding to keep four tight ends — Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister and Willson — and with Parkinson going on the NFI list.
Stephens, a corner, was on Seattle’s practice squad much of last season before being signed by Miami and playing in three games with the Dolphins at the end of the season. He then re-signed with the Seahawks in April. That there were no preseason games means fans have yet to see him. But the team likes the versatility of the 6-foot, 193-pounder out of Cincinnati.