Everson Griffen signing with the Cowboys for a mere $6 million is bad news for Jadeveon Clowney. There’s no other way to spin it. Griffen posted 8.0 sacks in 2019 and made his fourth-career Pro Bowl. And yet, he received essentially the same money as the Seahawks paid Bruce Irvin and only $3 million more than Benson Mayowa.
It’s an indication that the pass rush market may have bottomed out as training camps are now in full swing across the NFL. Again, that’s awful news for Clowney, who now appears to have lost his game of chicken in free agency.
Clowney initially wanted market-setting money north of $20 million annually on a multi-year mega deal. He then dipped his asking price to the $17-18 million range and is yet to budge since. He declined the Seahawks best offer in the ballpark of $15 million and everything else that has come his way.
His goal, of course, was to wait out the COVID-19 travel restrictions that kept him from taking an in-person physical with teams. His best offers are probably behind him even though the travel bans have been lifted. It’s a bit of bad luck given the global pandemic, but it’s also partially an overestimation of his own market and a gamble that went south. Sometimes, patience isn’t a virtue.
Clowney’s loss may be Seattle’s gain. The Seahawks have $15 million in the bank, and while some of that money will go to practice squad players and injury replacements, Seattle wouldn’t have to get too creative in order to create enough cap space to pay Clowney on a one-year deal.
What will that number be? Doubling up Griffen feels like it would be the ceiling. So that’s $12 million. The Seahawks would still surely be willing to pay something in that range, right? Seattle’s desperation for a premier pass rusher hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s only gotten more severe after learning that second-round pick Darrell Taylor will remain on the PUP list for at least another few weeks.
At his point it’s either Clowney, Clay Matthews or stand pat. Those three options range from best-case scenario to completly reckless. It’s really hard to imagine Seattle assuming the risk of the latter given the scrutiny on its pass rush and the organization’s stated need to improve the group that generated just 28 sacks a year ago.
Which makes this the more pertinent question: What will it take for Clowney to sign at this point? He has a few options. He can swallow his pride and accept that his patience cost him some money in 2020. That approach could easily be coupled with the confidence that he’ll ball out this season and recoup that money as a free agent in 2021. Door No. 2 would be to take the Le’Veon Bell route and sit this season out, or, at a bare minimum, wait to sign until the middle of the season if/when a contender loses its star pass rusher.
Skipping the 2020 season would make zero sense from a financial standpoint. It would be impossible for Clowney to get his desired mega deal in 2021 and make up for the money he’d miss out on this season. However, Clowney could decide that it’s not worth putting his body through the rigor of an NFL season if he’s not being paid what he feels like he’s worth. Nobody could argue with him for making such a decision.
But while Clowney continues to weigh his potentially dwindling options, Seattle remains the most logical destination for him. He’s said he enjoyed his time with the Seahawks. The organization loves him. The familiarity on both sides would be valuable given he’d be signing in mid-August.
Most importantly, Clowney would be surrounded by a vastly superior supporting cast compared to 2019. He was on an island last season. Ziggy Ansah was a non-factor. Jarran Reed missed six games due to a suspension and then battled a lingering ankle injury upon his return. Now Clowney would be joined by Irvin, Mayowa, a healthy Reed, Alton Robinson, Taylor and Jamal Adams. Teams would no longer be able to throw constant double teams at Clowney without consequence.
Who knows how this saga will end, but the door remains very much ajar for Clowney’s return to Seattle.