The football world was shaken when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Houston Texans were open to the possibility of trading Jadeveon Clowney. News broke that Clowney and the Texans were far apart in contract discussions after placing the franchise tag on him March 4th, leaving an interesting situation for a new Texans general manager to handle.
Clowney was one of the most hyped defensive prospects in maybe a decade coming out of college and has been good since entering the NFL. Players of this stature with NFL success typically aren’t moved by their first team’s. However, this narrative was turned on its head after Khalil Mack was traded by the Oakland Raiders despite being debatably the best defensive player in football.
If the Texans really are serious about moving Clowney because of his contract demands, the Baltimore Ravens would be a great fit. The Ravens lost a lot of defensive depth throughout free agency and have been in need of another great pass rusher since Terrell Suggs began to regress. The Texans and Clowney still have about a month to work out a long-term deal but if no such agreement seems possible, Baltimore should make a push for the stud.
Jadeveon Clowney, Baltimore Ravens A Good Match
My Trade Proposal:
Baltimore Receives: OLB Jadeveon Clowney + 2020 3rd Round Pick
Houston Receives: OLB Matt Judon + 2020 1st Round Pick + 2021 5th Round Pick
For my evaluating, I used both the Mack and Frank Clark trades as precedent. The main pieces being, the two early picks the team’s received for the players. The Raiders received two first round picks as well as received two upgrades on two picks in the later rounds. The Seattle Seahawks received a first and a second while swapping third-round picks — of which were very close in proximity.
The central pieces of both the Clark and Mack trades were two large pieces for the star player and then other pieces mixed in. In this proposal for Clowney, the Texans would be getting a first round pick that they can quickly use, as well as a player that can immediately come in and fill Clowney’s role. This keeps the Texans pass rush strong and versatile, while also picking up a pick that could be used to fortify the offensive line. Next year’s draft has a ton of good offensive lineman poised to make an immediate NFL impact. Judon is likely the equivalent to a second round pick or a bit more.
This means that it is almost the same value wise to the Clark trade. However, the reason the Ravens get a bit more than the Kansas City Chiefs did was that Clark is a year younger than Clowney and registered four more sacks in 2018. The Seahawks were also smart to strike at a time, near the draft, in which Clark’s value was likely at its highest. Right now, the teams who were in need of an edge defender likely already addressed that need.
For Baltimore, sacrificing a first round pick doesn’t mean much because they would be filling a need – at outside linebacker – they need to address through the draft with that first rounder. Replacing a Judon is a lot easier than finding a Suggs.
Why Judon Is Expendable to the Ravens
Despite Judon being a solid pass rusher and good all-around linebacker, the Ravens need a pure disrupter. Za’Darius Smith did a good job of becoming the Ravens chess piece in 2018 but it was also his only season making a consistent impact. Judon has been a good contributor for the past two seasons but has run into consistency issues on a game-to-game basis. His sack total in 2017 fell from 8.0 to 7.0 largely due to an incredibly slow start to the season. Some of these issues were smoothed out towards the end of the year but he still doesn’t seem like the heir to Suggs’ throne. Judon’s cover skills are better, however, he didn’t look a player you can anchor your pass rush on in 2018.
Like Jadeveon Clowney, Judon will also be a free agent this upcoming offseason. He is likely searching for a pretty large payday as well — especially if he were to hit the open market. Given what Smith got this season, he will demand around the same given he has had similar success but in more than just one season.
Why It’s the Perfect Time for a Splash Move
When it comes to the money, the Ravens don’t have a ton to spend in 2019 but have significantly more room opening up in 2020. Letting a number of big-name free agents walk has given general manager Eric DeCosta room to add a star.
Going into 2020, the Ravens are projected to have just over $52 million in cap space to spend as well as the ability to cut a number of bad contracts off of their hands. They also don’t have nearly as many high impact players set to hit the open market. The largest is probably Judon.
The Ravens have the advantage of having the majority of their core on rookie deals. Lamar Jackson has three (likely four) years left, Marlon Humphrey has three years left, and Marquise Brown is just entering his rookie year. Quarterback, corner and wide receiver are probably the three most valuable positions in football besides to pass rusher and then left tackle. Baltimore also had a ton of key contributors from last year’s draft step up that will at least play out and outperform the remainder of their rookie contracts.
In the NFL you need to find a balance of rookie and veteran contracts and the Ravens have room for a veteran. The luxury of being able to spread around the money that most team’s use on a franchise QB is invaluable. Baltimore has the money to overspend a bit on Clowney with their most important positions still on their first contracts.
It would take a lot of calculation for Baltimore to officially make a move for Jadeveon Clowney. Though the fit is perfect, Baltimore likes to hang on to their assets. The Ravens value their draft picks maybe more than any other team in the NFL and trading away a first would be an incredibly rare sight. However, the fit between Clowney and the Ravens is too cohesive to not recognize. I eluded to this before the start of free agency this year as well as The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss. He listed Baltimore as one of five possible trade partners for Clowney earlier this past May.
Though DeCosta making a push for another pass rusher after revamping the unit over the past few months is unlikely, Clowney could be the impact edge disrupter the Ravens have been craving.
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