The big story in free agency this off-season is not safety John Johnson, or keeping receiver Rasard Higgins, or snagging linebacker Anthony Walker.
The spotlight was suddenly thrust on inking EDGE rusher Jadeveon Clowney on Wednesday. With pomp and circumstance, the Messiah entered the building and laid his mighty pen to paper to help elevate the Browns chances of going to the promised land of milk and honey.
After his initial visit in the past weeks, the storyline was whether his surgically repaired knee could pass a physical. After all, nobody benefits from a player who would remain hurt or could only contribute in situational conditions.
At least, not for the asking price that pomp and circumstance cost these days.
Clowney had meniscus surgery that stopped his quest last season with the Tennessee Titans. The Titans had signed Clowney to a one-year “prove it” deal for $12 million. One season later, he is now on the Browns roster with a one-year “prove it” deal for $8 million.
Even if the Browns pick an EDGE rusher in the first or second-round of the upcoming NFL draft, Clowney is still a viable option who should start and cement last year’s porous rush defense.
Was it a good signing for Cleveland? What do the experts say and those who follow the Browns?
Susquehanna Valley Browns Backers
PRO: ANY aggressive, cap-friendly move in free agency is great for the Browns. Signing Jadeveon Clowney makes all the sense in the world to me. Overall, I like him better than the now-departed Olivier Vernon. While he’s listed as an EDGE, he can work all across the line and is actually better against the run. With Myles Garrett almost always occupying two blockers in passing situations, I see Clowney racking up seven or eight sacks when he’s facing one-on-one blocking. Another nice piece that definitely fits into the defensive puzzle!
The biggest issue is health. Can he put in a full season? Coming off meniscus surgery is tougher than many other arthroscopic procedures, but he should have had plenty of time to heal, strengthen and prepare for 2021. If it weren’t for the health concerns, I’d have been all in for a multi-year deal.
Clowney plays with a high motor and can be very disruptive. He and Sheldon Richardson, along with Andrew Billings will make the run defense formidable, and I can’t wait to see him doing frequent post-tackle celebrations in opposing backfields in 2021.
DBN Staff Writer
PRO: I love the move. In the past I have been critical of Clowney on the DBN Twitter account mainly because his price tag didn’t match the production for his first few seasons in the league. If we are being honest his sack totals are downright bad. This was back when the rumors were he wanted $15 million a season to sign.
But at $8 million? That’s roughly what the Dolphins will pay Emmanuel Ogbah this season. Yes - that Emmanuel Ogbah.
So is it worth a roll of the dice at $8 million? Yes. Maybe he is a better Robin than Batman. With Myles Garrett on the other side he won’t see the third most double-teams like he has over the past three years. He is going to get some one-on-ones, and he has to win those.
Not to mention that the number nerds love his game against the run, which despite its continued declining importance, still holds a value.
I think the biggest boost here is that the Browns don’t HAVE to grab a DE early in the draft. They CAN, but they don’t have to. Important difference. What if the Browns are up and instead of taking a DE they can grab a kid like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah? Think he would come in handy in slowing down Lamar Jackson for the next five years?
This is a win. Now let’s all get together for a prayer circle to hope for his health to hold up.
CON: Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney can be effective if both are healthy. At the same time, Clowney is coming off his worst career season with 0 sacks. His two best seasons came in 2017 and 2018 during his final two seasons with the Houston Texans during the last
two years of his rookie deal. If Cleveland uses a second or third-round pick on a defensive end like Payton Turner out of Houston and Turner beats out Clowney, then Cleveland basically wasted $10-million on the former Number 1 pick.
Charleston WV Browns Backers
PRO: While I wasn’t in favor of a Clowney signing last year, or even a couple of weeks ago, I’ve reversed my opinion. First, I believe in GM Andrew Berry. I want to see AB’s team, every roster spot an AB guy, and see what we’ve got.
Secondly, the Browns will have an elite level DE playing a supporting role. Imagine longtime Browns fans, just what that means. With Myles Garrett on the other side, Clowney’s presence helps both get chances at the QB. The team’s depth this year will be the difference between being a Wildcard playoff team and championship contender. I’m all in.
The Dawgs Podcast
PRO: We might not all be on the same level of excitement about Jadeveon Clowney signing with the Browns, but we definitely stand on the PRO side of this conversation. After the signing was announced on Wednesday, we posted a Twitter poll to gauge our fans’ opinions. The poll was a Love It/Hate It/Neutral question, with a resounding combined 95% either Love It or Neutral and only 5% Hate It. I think we can safely say Cleveland fans are NOT unhappy to have Clowney in town.
In terms of spending:
The Browns have been intentional and efficient with their spending this offseason. Signing Clowney is another smart move on this path. With a number of key players on rookie contracts who will need to be paid next year, like Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward, the Browns are wisely utilizing a series of one-year “prove-it” deals before allocating large
sums of cash to a bunch of new players. When you consider the contracts other defensive ends have received — Bud Dupree with Tennessee for $16.5M/year, Trey Hendrickson with Cincinnati for $15M/year, Carl Lawson with the Jets for $15M/year, Yannick Ngakoue with Las Vegas for $13M/year — the 1-year, $8M contract for Clowney is yet another bargain signing to bolster the defense.
In terms of production:
Let’s waive the injury concern up front; yes, Clowney has only played a 16-game season once, but five of his seven NFL seasons saw him on the field for 13 games or more. He was limited to four games as a rookie, and he only played half the season last year. But let’s not pretend that Olivier Vernon — or Myles Garrett, for that matter — were on the field every game. Clowney is not a sack machine. He just isn’t. He can get sacks, sure, we saw that in 2017 and 2018 when he tallied 9.5 and 9 sacks, respectively. But what Clowney does most effectively is stop the run. According to Football Outsiders, in 2019 with the Seattle Seahawks, Clowney faced 24 run plays and recorded 21 stops for an average of 0.9 yards per play. His stop rate was 88% in both 2019 and 2018. Less than a yard per rush? Yeah, we’ll let Myles worry about the sacks if Clowney is going to keep offenses at 2nd and long.
In terms of future potential:
At 28-years old, Clowney is a perfect player for a prove-it season with the Browns. If the stars align the way we know they can, Clowney will feast on this defensive line opposite Myles Garrett. If the production is outstanding and the value is obvious, the Browns can invest in a longer-term contract with Clowney while he’s still in his veteran-prime window. The Browns could sign him to a three-year deal next season, keeping the former Number 1 pick on board through his age 31 season. All this is easy to speculate on paper, and as always the truth will unfold on Sundays starting in September; but right now all signs point to another standing ovation for Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns.
Honolulu Browns Backers
PRO: Sometimes a change in scenery is what is needed for an athlete to excel. Despite the history of injury, Clowney can significantly contribute to the success of the Cleveland Browns simply by being opposite Myles Garrett. His presence alone will provide a psychological impact on opposing teams offenses.
PRO: I see the signing of Jadeveon Clowney as nothing but positive for Cleveland. Someone smarter than me once coined the phrase “Disruption is Production” and there aren’t many pass rushers more disruptive than Clowney.
That is to say when he is healthy. Unfortunately, that has been the issue with the former #1 overall pick from South Carolina. The Browns getting him on a one-year deal for $8-10 million is a win. Having Clowney and Takk McKinley on the opposite side of Myles Garrett
is a scary thought for AFC North quarterbacks.
DBN Staff Writer
CON: I just don’t get this signing. From 2016-2019, Clowney had 158 total tackles, 24.5 sacks, 59 QB hits, 53 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, started 45 games and was named to three Pro Bowls all on his rookie deal. Then he gets traded to Seattle who later drop him and he then signs a one-year $12.5 million free agent deal with Tennessee last year who subsequently made no effort to re-sign him. For those last two seasons, his production numbers plummeted to 50 total tackles, three sacks, 19 QB hits, 11 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. All the while, he was asking for a premium price for his services and started just 19 games. Last season alone, he netted zero sacks.
And then there are the injury issues: Inguinal groin sports hernia, torn knee Meniscus tear (surgery needed), torn knee Meniscus complications (microfracture surgery), ankle sprain Grade 2, lower back Lumbar sprain, pedal Lisfranc sprain, elbow sprain, knee strain Grade 1 (surgery), knee strain Grade 1 again (surgery), lower back Lumbar sprain, knee Patella sprain, hip injury, inguinal groin strain Grade 2, core muscle injury (surgery), torn knee meniscus (surgery).
Ever since the Houston Texans took him first overall in the 2014 NFL draft, Clowney has completed just one 16-game season (2017). SportsInjuryPredictor.com gives Clowney a 99% chance of some sort of injury in 2021 with him missing about three games.
Last year, the Browns finished 30th against the run. Now there is talk about having to cut DT Sheldon Richardson to make room for Clowney’s inflated salary. Richardson WAS the rushing defense last season.
In the last two seasons Clowney has missed 11 games, averaged 1.5 sacks with 25 tackles a season. Clowney is an excellent run stopper, but his pass rushing skills have diminished greatly. Seems to me, Cleveland paid $8 million for a situational defensive end and another $4.5 million to Takk McKinley as another situational defensive end.
Seattle traded for Clowney to help their pass rush. Tennessee paid him premium money to help bolster their pass rush. Now Cleveland has signed him to....yes, make their pass rush better. Maybe between Clowney and McKinley, they can become one complete player.
Browns Backers with a Twist (Cleveland)
PRO: I love the Clowney signing. Although I don’t think he is the answer for the opposite pass rushing defense end with Myles Garrett, I do think Clowney will contribute to the defense. We have former MVP Lamar Jackson in our division and Clowney will help set the edge and keep him in the pocket. The best offenses in the league do a terrific job of getting their speedsters out in space and around the edge quickly. With Clowney and Garrett, other teams will be forced to move the ball more in the middle of the field, which was bolstered in free agency as well.
Takk McKinley or Garrett should be plenty rested for throwing down pressures. The only con for signing Clowney is his injury history, however, the signing also does not make the Browns over the salary cap. The signing also provides the Browns with a cushion of drafting a defensive end this year and having that player develop, or to wait one year if there is another defensive end that Andrew Berry and company like better next year.
DBN Staff Writer
PRO: Some Browns fans might balk at Clowney’s price tag, or they might get anxious about our salary cap. This is certainly understandable; we’ve been a bad team for so long and we’ve never really had an incentive to spend up to the cap (in fact, we’ve had plenty of incentive to keep our cap numbers low). However, our situation has changed.
The obvious change is that we’re good now. While I think we “outplayed our talent” last year, we were one play away from upsetting the Chiefs and making it to the Super Bowl. We are a good team, and if the stars align we have a chance at making consistent championship runs. Our window of opportunity is open.
The less obvious differences in my opinion are:
1) We have a roster in it’s prime
Jarvis and Odell are 29. JC and Joel are 30. Sheldon is 31. These guys represent 5 of the top 7 salaries on our roster, and they won’t be able to play forever. All of their contracts except for Sheldon’s make sense to restructure if we want to keep them around for another 3-5 years. It might hurt to think about because all of those guys are Browns heroes, but some of them might not be around much longer, either. At some point they are going to be gone (for financial or simple performance/age reasons). Our only path to creating a sustainably successful team is and has always been through the draft and the development of talent, and we will see a changing of the guard over the next 5 years or so. Nothing about the Clowney signing changes this.
2) 2020 was an anomaly in terms of league funding
Since the 2015 season, the salary cap has gone up about $10-12 million per year, except it is actually down about $18 million this year. It seems like we are approaching the end of the pandemic or at least some kind of return to normalcy, and given that I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect the cap to increase next year, maybe even by $20-30 million. So we could expect our cap space to expand both by lowering our salary numbers AND by the total cap increasing.
On the field, it should be obvious why I like this move. Clowney is a former #1 overall draft pick, 3-time pro bowler, and a perfect end to pair with Myles Garrett. He had his most productive seasons in Houston, working along the line with J.J. Watt, and is a natural fit at 4-3 DE with some ability to drop into coverage, an ability which DC Joe Woods has been known to use. I am higher on Takk McKinley than most, and with those three DEs we can rotate them to keep them fresh, and hopefully lower their chances of injury. This signing also gives us even more flexibility in the draft, which will be important because it will be our best way to replenish our talent (as noted above). The more flexibility we have and the less we have to “reach” to fill big holes on our roster, the better chances we have of finding the next Brown to build around.
CON: Overall I’m pretty neutral/leaning negative on the signing. This comes off to me a bit like being left at the altar last year and still circling back despite all the red flags that are there. I have a hard time believing they were bidding against anyone at that dollar figure this late in the process. I guess it is possible they were worried that post-draft more teams might jump in if it becomes a major need. But Clowney is a guy that got limited interest last year in the $10 million range; and he comes off another injury plagued year which would have dropped that even more. I guess to me this is a deal that made sense a month ago but at this point there should be more of a swing toward the team money wise.
Ruthie Lieberman & Daniel Jaffe
President/ Vice President
Israel Browns Backers
PRO: WAY Pro! The icing on the cake to what has become a complete defensive makeover. Berry did for the defense this year what he did for the offense last year. $8 million committed with another $2 million in incentives is a modest price. A great use of short-term cap space without tying up anything long-term. Low risk – high potential reward.
The EDGE rotation now looks awesome. They can mix and match against the run and the pass, keeping everyone fresh into the fourth quarter. You double-team either Garrett or Clowney at your own hazard. Takk can focus on being a rush specialist, with Gustin and (hopefully) Weaver providing quality depth. DC Joe Woods has to be salivating. He can now play five or even six DB’s at times and rely on the front four to shut down the run AND pressure the passer. The Browns appear to be a well-balanced and superbly-talented team.
What is your opinion of signing Jadeveon Clowney?
This poll is closed
Love, love, love it
Overpaid and not happy with the signing