With the NFL schedule now released, the NFL off-season is coming to it’s quietest point. Free agency has essentially finished, the draft has concluded, and teams have nearly set their initial rosters for the 2020 preseason. However, some players and teams aren’t finished yet. One of the biggest free agents on the market in 2020, Jadeveon Clowney, is still without a team.
The long-time Houston Texans pass rusher spent his 2019 with the Seattle Seahawks after Bill O’Brien and Texans management refused to sign him to a long-term extension. Clowney then had his worst statistical season to date in Seattle and has predictably, failed to cash in on the open market in the manner he saw fitting. Most high-priced free agents are usually snatched up early but nearly two months after the start of free agency, Clowney remains unsigned.
Jadeveon Clowney Should Sign One-Year Deal With Baltimore Ravens
The ideal scenario has changed for Clowney and his best option is likely signing a short-term deal with a club that will bring the best out of him. The Baltimore Ravens could be that fit. John Harbaugh and his respective defensive coordinators have never had a problem getting production out of their pass rushers. Whether they were drafted in the first round or fifth round, or were coming to the end of their career and needed a new home, the Ravens seem to continually have stud edge defenders every year.
Free agent DE Jadeveon Clowney (@clownejd)works at @PlexAthlete in Houston with Plex director @itsdannyarnold. Clowney acknowledges @Seahawks remain on his radar,loved playing there. Other teams expressing interest according to NFL sources incl @Browns, @Ravens, @Titans & @Eagles pic.twitter.com/104lG2XS4b
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) May 6, 2020
If Clowney wants to maximize his value for the 2021 off-season, he needs to play with a team that has a long history of getting the best out of its pass rushers, and compete for a Super Bowl. That means him signing a one-year deal with the Ravens is his best option.
A Bet on Yourself Deal Is Good for Clowney
It’s clear at this point that Jadeveon Clowney is likely not seeing the interest he expected when he stepped onto the open market in March. He has been one of the hottest commodities in football at all points in his career and has never been in a situation like he is in now. From being the consensus number one player in the nation coming out of high school to the first-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Clowney is now in unfamiliar territory. That is why it might be in his best interest to bet on himself in 2020 and show the NFL why he is worth the contract he believes he deserves.
Coming into the off-season, Clowney made it known he was looking to become the NFL’s highest paid edge rusher. According to New York Giants reporter Ralph Vacchiano, he was looking for a multi-year deal with an average annual value of $22-23 million per year. The only 3-4 outside linebacker currently playing with an AAV over $20 million is Khalil Mack.
Jadeveon Clowney should now adjust his position and play on a one-year deal to prove he’s worth what he is demanding. Players like Robert Quinn in 2019, who have taken one-year deals, have then seen their values skyrocket the following off-season. For comparison, Quinn was coming off a 6.5 sack, and nine tackles for loss 2018 season (at age 28) and signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys. He then proceeded to top his previous season totals in sacks (11.5), quarterback hits (22), and tackles for loss (13). Quinn signed a big five-year, $70 million deal with the Chicago Bears this off-season.
If Clowney signed a one-year deal and balled out in 2020, his value could far surpass Quinn’s as he is younger, a better run-stopper, and a more versatile athlete.
Clowney Is A Perfect Fit for Baltimore
When fans think of the Baltimore Ravens, they think defense. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed created a tradition of highly successful defenses and that tradition lives on to this day. Baltimore finished the 2019 season as the fourth best yardage defense and third best scoring defense but lacked in getting to the passer. The Ravens 37.0 sacks were their lowest in a single season since 2016. This was in spite of Don Martindale‘s defense having the highest blitzing percentage in the entire NFL.
Jadeveon Clowney would fit in perfectly with the Ravens because of their history of turning out quality pass rushers. The Ravens continually find outside linebackers through the draft and many have gone on to earn large deals outside of Baltimore. The most recent example is Za’Darius Smith. After seeing limited opportunities behind both Terrell Suggs and Matt Judon, Smith was given an expanded roll in the final year of his rookie contract. Being used as a rotational pass rusher, he registered 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits; all were career-highs to that point. Smith earned himself a big payday from the Green Bay Packers to the tune of four-years and $66 million and an AAV of $16.5 million per year. Prior examples to Smith include Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee.
There are also veterans that have had huge years with the Ravens. Following his time with the Denver Broncos, Elvis Dumervil added 35.5 sacks and 72 quarterback hits to his career totals in 55 games over four seasons in Baltimore. He was 29 years old during his first season as a Raven. Trevor Pryce and Michael McCrary are two more examples. Clowney needs a team that is going to best utilize his skills, and allow him to produce to his fullest potential.
Why Baltimore Needs Clowney
The Ravens shocked a lot of people by not selecting an edge defender in the 2020 draft. Going into the draft, Baltimore had just three outside linebackers on their roster and did not select one with any of their nine draft picks. They’ve re-signed veteran Pernell McPhee and signed UDFAs Chauncey Rivers and John Daka since the draft but are still lacking in overall talent. Clowney has natural talent and more.
Martindale has not had a player like Jadeveon Clowney since the prime years of Terrell Suggs and his versatility off the edge could catapult the Ravens defense to the best in the NFL. In his last year with the Ravens, Za’Darius Smith was lined up in a number of different fronts due to his rare blend of athleticism and size. Martindale often lined Smith up as a 3-tech, 5-tech, and on the edge, with a large portion of his pressures coming from the interior of the defensive line.
Clowney could be a perfect replacement. During his time with the Texans, he was moved up and down the line like a chess piece and did everything from play the edge to the mic. The power/speed mix that Clowney brings lends itself incredibly well to the Ravens. Martindale brings a lot of unique blitz packages and is one of the most prominent defensive coordinators when it comes to implementing ‘positionless football’ in his defense.
Hitting the cap ceiling might be a tough sell for the Ravens, but using their salary room to add elite players while Lamar Jackson is still on his rookie deal, is smart business.
Ravens Looking to Win Now and Clowney Looking to Cash In
Jadeveon Clowney is said to have interest from a number of teams, even at this point in free agency, however, the Ravens are his best fit. Returning to the Seahawks is his safest bet but his lack of production last season with the team should be concerning. If he were to join the Ravens, double digit sacks would likely be his floor. Adding an outside linebacker who has proven to be an elite run defender and good pass rusher, with the versatility to move around the front-seven is all the Ravens could ever ask for. Even though Clowney would have to take a pay cut for the upcoming season, a spectacular year in one of the league’s historically great defenses would perhaps give him the greatest value of his NFL career to this point.