In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans elected to spend the first-overall pick on edge Jadeveon Clowney. In a star-studded draft, Clowney has made his mark on the league, even after having a rough start to his career by way of injuries limiting his playing time. Since 2016, Clowney has missed a combined three games, proving he is capable of putting together a solid season regardless of the minor injuries all players incur. Throughout his five-year career, Clowney has totaled 205 tackles, 29 sacks, 11 pass deflections, four fumbles, six fumble recoveries, 64 tackles-for-loss, and 67 quarterback hits.
Heading into the 2019 season, Clowney was given the franchise tag by the Texans which totals $15.967m for the season (per OverTheCap). Clowney – who’s held out from the entire offseason program – is seemingly more interested in a long-term commitment with some stability, though the two sides haven’t been able to come to terms. Another factor that isn’t often discussed, is that the Texans elected to give Clowney the outside linebacker tag as opposed to the defensive end one, saving them roughly $2m in the process. For a player who is primarily an edge rusher, Clowney can argue through the NFLPA and NFL to receive the defensive end tag and therefore receive more money, though the dynamic behind the move from the Texans may have already strained the relationship, as potentially evidenced by the reluctance of Clowney to sign the tag.
Looking at teams around the league, here’s the best-case scenario’s for both the Texans and Clowney in terms of a trade (all salary cap figures are used from Over The Cap).
Sure, the Redskins don’t have an immediate need at edge rusher with veteran Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Montez Sweat there, though a player-for-player trade makes the most sense between the Redskins and the Texans. The Redskins would get a versatile rusher by way of Clowney who can play on the edge, standing up, or in between the 5-tech spots, and the Texans could receive star left tackle Trent Williams who is also currently holding out and per reports, vows to never play for the Redskins again. The Texans would immediately improve at left tackle, and the Redskins would move on acquiring a 26-year old star in the process. There are no cap restraints as the Redskins currently stand on $11.362m, with the Texans possessing $37.533m in cap space.
New York Jets
The Jets haven’t had a good edge rusher in many years, meaning Clowney would immediately make a massive impact for the men in green. The Jets recently drafted defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, pairing him with Leonard Williams and Nathan Shepherd, forming quite a fantastic defensive interior group. Adding Clowney to the mix on the outside would pay huge dividends for the Jets’ front-seven. In terms of cap space, the Jets have $14.6m available, meaning they could almost take on the entirety of Clowney’s 2019 cap hit (prior to any extension). The Jets don’t really posses any players they could move in a player-for-player trade, making this scenario more likely to include draft capital.
The two remaining teams that pose interesting fits are the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, though both franchises have a solid rotation of defensive ends currently. Even with that being the case, neither team can necessarily be ruled out because of their penchants for never standing still and always seeking improvement, particularly Eagles’ General Manager Howie Roseman.
Taking a look at the Texans’ betting odds, the over/under is set at 8.5 wins. Even with the dynamic surrounding Jadeveon Clowney and the uncertainty it brings, the Texans should eclipse the 8.5-win total. The defense still has talent on all three levels, and the offense is sure to be productive as long as Deshaun Watson remains the quarterback.
A trade centering around Jadeveon Clowney isn’t very likely to happen, simply due to the timing of the offseason – teams don’t have a ton of cap space at this point of the year and have already assembled the top-end of their rosters – as well as the importance of a looming contract extension. It would be bad business for any team to trade significant assets for Clowney without working out a long-term extension prior to securing his services, though the NFL’s rules don’t allow for franchise tagged players to sign a long-term extension during their franchise season post-June, meaning the franchise that trades for him will need Clowney to play on the tag for the year and reconvene on a long-term extension after the 2019 season.