Here we are at the end of June, and there are still several players of consequence on the free-agent market that could be of interest to teams across the NFL. Former Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney is one of those players.
Clowney’s market has been interesting. He’s seeking one of the larger contracts among edge rushers, but the interest has been as dry as the Sahara Desert. That hasn’t stopped Clowney from pursuing teams of interest to land a job before the NFL opens training camp at the end of July.
According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints are atop Clowney’s preferred landing spots.
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) June 26, 2020
“I was told the two teams on top of Clowney’s list, as far as where he would like to end up, are the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. He would definitely help both of those teams. Both of them are a little bit cash-strapped… The Cowboys are about $11.2 million below the cap. So I don’t think either of that is going to be enough to bring Clowney in. They would have to do some significant maneuvering of salary in order to bring him in for a year if in fact those teams want him. I don’t know that they want him. I know that Clowney would like, wouldn’t mind ending up with either the Cowboys or the Saints from what I’m told.”
Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network via RJ Ochoa
There’s a common theme emanating in the NFL among players, agents, and media members. If you want to get paid or get noticed, mention the Dallas Cowboys.
Sure, maybe Jadeveon Clowney wants to join America’s Team, but it’s also possible that he and his agent are just trying to gain some traction in the free-agent market. For whatever reason, NFL teams aren’t all that interested in paying big money for Clowney.
Pauline’s accurate that the Dallas Cowboys have $11.25 million in cap space remaining for the 2020 season.
It’s hard to imagine the Dallas Cowboys being all that interested in Clowney if he’s still seeking a significant number. While Clowney would be a difference-maker along the defensive line, they haven’t shown much interest in free agent defensive ends this offseason. Robert Quinn was allowed to walk to the Chicago Bears, and there’s been little interest in Markus Golden or Everson Griffen. Signing Aldon Smith is a low-risk, potentially high reward move that could make a player like Clowney unnecessary.
If the Dallas Cowboys were to pursue Clowney, they could find the money to make it work. The most significant contract that they could use to find some cap space is Dak Prescott’s. If Prescott and the Cowboys can reach a long-term agreement by July 15th, the Cowboys could lower Prescott’s year one cap hit, providing more money on this year’s salary cap.
Clowney’s ability to play several spots in three and four-man defensive fronts makes him an intriguing player. The Cowboys are looking to play in multiple defensive fronts in 2020 under Mike Nolan, and a guy like Clowney, who has played defensive end in three and four-man fronts, as well as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, makes a lot of sense. The difficulty is figuring out the value for an edge rusher who has never had a double-digit sack season and will be looking for this third team in three seasons.
The other difficulty is in his availability. Clowney has had just one 16 game season in his six-year career. He missed three games in 2019, recording only three sacks for the Seattle Seahawks.
While Jadeveon Clowney is a fit and could help the Dallas defense, to come to the Cowboys, he’d have to lower his contractual expectations significantly. For the Cowboys to be interested, he’d have to be willing to come in on a one-year prove-it deal. Because of his inconsistencies, it is unlikely that any team is going to break the bank for Clowney.