The Cleveland Browns added depth to the defensive line with the signings of defensive tackle Andrew Billings and defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
But could the Browns still be in the market for more help?
That is a possibility according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who Tweeted out earlier today that there are those who believe the Browns were “close” to a potential deal with free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney:
From @SportsCenter earlier: Cleveland Browns have shown interest in Jadeveon Clowney, and some people around league believe Cleveland got closer with Clowney than other suitors, though nothing ultimately happened from recent talks. Seattle's offer hasn't been what Clowney wants.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 4, 2020
Clowney entered free agency reportedly looking for a multi-year contract in the neighborhood of $20 million a year. But as free agency as slowed to a crawl and no one has shown serious interest at that price, Clowney’s price tag may be on the decline, according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini:
As we continue to watch the market for Jadeveon Clowney, I am told by several sources the asking price has been moved off that $20mil+ number and it’s closer to $17-18mil. This could spark more interest. Also told Titans and Seahawks are still “interested”— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) April 1, 2020
If that new amount is true, the interest from the Browns to grow given that they currently have around $43 million in available cap space, according to overthecap.com.
Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry could easily meet Clowney’s asking price by releasing defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is due $15.5 million this season in the final year of his contract, add in a couple of million dollars and bring Clowney to Cleveland.
It may not be that simple of course, as Vernon’s salary is only on the books for the upcoming season, whereas Clowney would likely be signing for a multi-year deal, unless Berry can work some of his magic and convince Clowney that a one- or two-year deal is in his best interest.
There is also the question of how much of an improvement Clowney would be over Vernon.
Working in his favor is that Clowney is younger than Vernon as Clowney just turned 27 in February while Vernon while hit the age of 30 in October. And while both players have dealt with injuries over the years, Clowney has played in 41 games over the past three seasons, compared to just 33 for Vernon.
Clowney does have more sacks than Vernon the past three seasons, but not my much - 21.5 vs. 17. So if that is your only qualification for a defensive end, then it is essentially a wash.
Clowney has 32 sacks in six NFL seasons with 80 quarterback hits, 252 pressures and three Pro Bowl appearances. He has also graded out exceptionally well via Pro Football Focus, specifically over the past two seasons. He finished with 31 tackles, three sacks, four forced fumbles, 13 quarterback hits and 47 pressures in 13 games, but was hampered for the majority of the second half of the season with a core muscle injury, explaining why the sack numbers are down. Clowney had surgery on the core muscle injury, which shouldn’t affect him for the 2020 season.
The Browns have been active in free agency along the defensive line, and with the possibility that Clowney’s asking price is coming down, they may not be done just yet.