Our series reviewing the key questions hanging over the Seahawks as they head into the summer ends with one that was also hanging over their heads as they headed into the winter and spring — what’s going to happen with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney?
The answer may be the same as it was then — no one really knows but Seattle might still be able to keep him.
What may be more certain is that the answer likely won’t be known now until deep into next month, around the time camps are scheduled to start on July 28.
Anything can happen at any time, of course.
But NFL teams really do typically try to take some time off in the summer and even if talks can go on during this time, few moves are usually made.
Last year, the Seahawks went from June 10 to July 24 without making a transaction, their longest period of the year without recording an official move.
So, if you’ve been avidly on the Clowney watch, you may have to continue to practice patience.
The other best bet at this point is that Clowney signs a one-year deal with some team and tries free agency all over again next year.
And that’s why some around the league continue to suggest he could still end up back with Seattle for the 2020 season, the thinking being if he’s going somewhere for just a year he may as well go somewhere he knows with coaches and teammates he is comfortable with, and to a defense that needs him.
That, of course, would be assuming the money is relatively equal. And money is obviously why we are where we are.
To briefly recap, the 27-year-old Clowney, who was the first overall pick in the draft in 2014, became a free agent for the first time in his career in March.
He did so hoping for the kind of blockbuster deal he’d seen defensive ends like Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark get a year ago — four or five years, at $21 million or, with some speculating his initial asking price was even higher — and likely thinking there was no reason it wouldn’t happen after a season in Seattle in which he showed at times he could take over a game defensively.
But no such offers came, with one complication being that Clowney couldn’t travel anywhere to take a physical and answer any lingering questions about his knee and a core muscle surgery he had after the 2019 season due to NFL-imposed restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some also simply wondered if he was worth the money he was asking for at a position where the number of sacks usually is the biggest indicator of perceived value — for better or worse — and Clowney never having had more than 9.5 in a season.
Seattle’s initial offer has been thought in the $15-16 million range, and it’s possible the only multi-year offer that was better came from Cleveland.
Cleveland.com reported this week that the Browns had given Clowney “more than anyone else’’ on a multi-year deal. That makes sense, given that Cleveland’s offer was reported as $17 million per year, which would slot it just a little above what is thought to be Seattle’s offer. What Clowney has been offered by any other teams is unclear.
A few reports over the last month or so stated Clowney had begun to understand he was going to have to accept less, and also that the Seahawks had made it clear that the “door was still open’’ for Clowney to return but that they could no longer give him the kind of offer they had initially.
Indeed, Seahawks general manager John Schneider explained during the draft in April that the team had told Clowney a week or so into free agency that they were going to have to move on and begin spending some of the money they might have given him to fill other needs (which was around the time the team signed free agent defensive end Benson Mayowa after having earlier signed Bruce Irvin).
On May 5 Clowney gave an interview to a Houston television station that seemed designed in large part to show teams he was healthy and jumpstart his market.
Aside from the Seahawks and Browns, other teams who have reportedly been interested include the Giants, Jets, Eagles and Titans (Tennessee’s head coach, Mike Vrabel, was his position coach in Houston).
But one national writer — Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated — speculated this week that other teams could get involved as the season draws closer (with all of this, of course, assuming there will be a season).
Wrote Orr: “What I like about his current situation is the idea that his market could suddenly regenerate the closer we get to the start of the season. Clowney will be a flytrap for desperate teams who finally get a look at their rosters and decide whomever they drafted or signed is not adequate enough to carry the load.’’
What could also change the market is an injury or two around the league.
Clowney said in his Houston TV interview — his lone public comments since the end of last season — that free agency was initially “nerve wracking,’’ the implication being that he thought he’d probably get signed pretty quickly.
But Clowney showed last year he was willing to be patient, sitting out the entire offseason and training camp while with Houston before orchestrating a trade to Seattle.
“I ain’t in no rush,’’ Clowney said then. “I’m just waiting on the right opportunity.’’
Six months since the end of the 2019 season, though, about all we know for sure, though, is that someday the wait will end.