The Jadeveon Clowney free agency saga ended just before the regular season opened.
Clowney, the former No. 1 overall pick, signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. Fresh off an appearance in the AFC championship game and with potentially a small window of reaching one again, the Titans understandably wanted to add a talented player like Clowney by any means necessary.
Clowney should be glad the Titans signed him when they did, because this could be the Pro Bowl defensive end’s final chance.
Jadeveon Clowney signed with the Titans during training camp
The Jadeveon Clowney free agency saga went on far longer than most football fans might have predicted.
Originally, it appeared Clowney might re-sign with the Seattle Seahawks. That never happened, though, and Clowney remained a free agent through the spring and summer.
Several teams were linked to Clowney, including the New York Jets, but nothing ever happened. Everything suddenly changed during the first weekend of September, when both the Titans and Saints showed significant interest.
Clowney wound up signing with Tennessee on a one-year, $12 million deal. The contract can pay Clowney up to $15 million because of incentives.
Tennessee already listed Cowney as a starting outside linebacker ahead of free agent signee Vic Beasley.
Clowney has had an interesting NFL career
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Jadeveon Clowney was the rare defensive prospect who appeared like a guaranteed NFL star.
Clowney starred at South Carolina and earned first-team All-American honors in his sophomore and junior seasons. The 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Clowney entered the NFL with serious expectations.
Whether or not Clowney has lived up to those expectations is another conversation. Numbers-wise, Clowney has only recorded 32 sacks and forced eight fumbles in six NFL seasons.
Clowney really didn’t break out until 2016, his third season in the league. The former No. 1 overall pick had six sacks and 16 tackles for loss that year. Clowney earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors after the season.
Clowney totaled 24.5 sacks, 53 tackles for loss, forced four fumbles, and hit the quarterback 59 times from 2016-18. With free agency approaching, Houston traded Clowney to Seattle in August 2019.
Clowney only had three sacks last year, his lowest since a sackless rookie season. Advanced stats were kinder to Clowney, who played all of last season at 26, and Pro Football Focus insisted judging Clowney on his sack totals means people are “certainly going to be underwhelmed.”
This could be Jadeveon Clowney’s last chance
Jadeveon Clowney is in a difficult situation that has nothing to do with the Tennessee Titans.
Clowney’s value, fairly or unfairly, is dependent to many on his sack totals. Although Clowney is still in the prime of his career — he doesn’t turn 28 until February — and should, in theory, earn one more major payday, teams may not want to shell out those deals if Clowney isn’t reaching the quarterback.
So long as Clowney stays healthy and impactful, he’ll always have a chance to earn NFL roster spots. But that heavy payday he’s been chasing won’t come if Clowney doesn’t record more sacks.
Judging how great a player is by their pure traditional numbers isn’t always fair. No one would consider Jared Goff or Jameis Winston to be elite quarterbacks even if they throw for a substantial amount of yards per season.
This is the predicament Clowney finds himself in. Clowney’s new road to that massive contract begins against Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos, a team he has one sack against in two career games.