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Saints tried “sign and trade” deal for Clowney, offered a pick for other team to take cap hit

The Titans were able to land Jadeveon Clowney after a long pursuit and Mike Florio breaks down what he could bring to Tennessee's defense.

The Saints got creative in their pursuit of free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, attempting an unusual move that would have seen another team sign Clowney first, pay him a bonus that would go on that team’s salary cap, and then trade him to the Saints.

It didn’t work out and Clowney signed with the Titans instead, but the Saints were trying to make it work until the very end.

NFL Network reports that the Saints and another team (believed to be the Browns) worked out an agreement where that other team would sign Clowney to a one-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus and a $10 million base salary. Then that other team would pay Clowney his signing bonus and immediately trade him to the Saints for a second-round draft pick.

In other words, the Saints would trade a second-round pick to the Browns for $5 million in cap space. The Browns have done something similar in the past, agreeing to trade for Brock Osweiler and a second-round pick, knowing that Osweiler wasn’t really in their plans but getting the second-round pick in exchange for taking Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary off the Texans’ hands.

However, the proposed Clowney deal was somewhat different, and it’s not clear whether the NFL would have allowed it.

So Clowney is a Titan, the Saints kept their second-round draft pick, and the Browns kept the $5 million they would have given up. Trades like this have been done in other sports and could make sense in the NFL, and the league office ought to offer a definitive ruling about whether such a trade would be approved, as all teams and players should know the rules they’re operating under. This trade didn’t happen, but perhaps a similar trade could happen in the future, where a cap-strapped team finds a creative way to sign a player.