Jadeveon Clowney reportedly has finally decided on what team he'll play for during the 2020 NFL season, and it's great news for the 49ers.
No, San Francisco didn't pull off the surprise signing of NFL cutdown day; Clowney never was a realistic consideration for the 49ers, being outside of their price range. But where the pass rusher did end up is a lot better than it could have been for the reigning NFC champions.
ESPN's Dianna Russini reported Saturday that Clowney is expected to sign with the Tennessee Titans.
On Thursday, both the Titans and New Orleans Saints reportedly were "pushing hard" to sign Clowney, with the Saints reportedly going so far as to have coach Sean Payton speak with the defensive standout multiple times and were trying to restructure contracts to create more cap space to sign him. It appears those efforts were for naught, however.
Clowney's decision to join the Titans is a fortuitous development for the 49ers. Had he signed with the Saints or re-signed with the Seattle Seahawks, one could make the case he would have been playing for one of San Francisco's two greatest threats within the NFC, and there's a strong chance the 49ers would have faced him two or even three times in the season ahead. Now in the AFC, the only way the 49ers will see Clowney is if they face the Titans in Super Bowl LV.
His career sack totals don't necessarily match up with his reputation as one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL, but Clowney ranked fifth in ESPN's pass rush win rate last season, and the 49ers know just how disruptive he can be. Clowney had five quarterback hits, a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and defensive touchdown in Seattle's 27-24 win over San Francisco at Levi's Stadium in Week 10.
The Seahawks ranked 30th in the NFL last season in adjusted sack rate, and that was with Clowney. They've made some depth signings and acquired safety Jamal Adams, but without Clowney in tow, there isn't much reason to expect Seattle's pass rush to be significantly improved in 2020. And with Clowney headed to Tennessee, there aren't many potential upgrades available on the free-agent market.
The 49ers still will face a gauntlet to get back to the Super Bowl, but it would have been made that much more challenging if Clowney was playing for their top competition. He won't be, though, and you can be sure San Francisco is happy about that.