From First Overall to Contract-less – A Clowney Story
Go back in your mind to May 8th, 2014 and think of where you were when the NFL Draft was being aired that night. Jadeveon Clowney was sitting at the table when he heard the words, “with the first pick the Houston Texans pick…Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End…university of South Carolina.” With all the fanfare of a first overall pick, Clowney went out to meet Roger Goodell and to receive his hat and jersey. It’s an experience most dream about and few can obtain. He was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft to the worst team in the NFL the prior year. In 2013, the Texans went 2-14. Their two wins coming in the first two weeks of the season over the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans.
Fast forward to the beginning of the next season. Week one against the Washington Redskins ended in tragedy. Late into the second quarter, Clowney was carted off the field with an injury to his knee. He landed in a hole in the turf. That hole would take him out for the whole season after only playing four games and recording a measly seven tackles. He would undergo season-ending surgery to his knee.
2015 would be Clowney’s actual rookie season. It was the first season he was available to play the whole season. He recorded 40 tackles, 13 assists, and 4.5 sacks. That same season would see Texans superstar J.J. Watt go down with a broken hand, staph infection, two torn abs, three torn adductor muscles, and a herniated disc. It was Clowney and Whitney Mercilus who held the line together to help the Texans make it to the playoffs.
2016 & 2017 Seasons
The Houston Texans would be hit again with the injury but when Watt was sidelined for the whole year with a back injury. Clowney would then go on to record 52 tackles, 12 assists, and 6 sacks despite having one of the greatest defensive ends to play the game being out for the season. The same could be said about the 2017 season when Watt went down with a Tibial Plateau fracture in the 5th week of the season. Another key part of the defensive line would be out for the year when Mercilus would suffer a chest injury in the same game. Clowney would then have the best season of his young career with 59 tackles, 18 assists, and 9.5 sacks.
And now we come back to last season, Watt is back from his injuries as is Mercilus. Clowney is still a beast at his outside linebacker spot where he records 47 tackles, 9 assists, and 9 sacks. As an edge rusher, he was so fast that at times the lineman was already on the ground before he saw Clowney. Many times, it was all an opposing quarterback could do was just throw the ball downfield just so he wouldn’t get hit by the “C Train”. He would record over 60 pressures in 2018. Just down from his 64 pressures from 2017.
All of this production and effort on the field was rewarded with a call from Clowney’s agent. The team placed a non-exclusive tag on Clowney. This type of tag allows Clowney to explore options with another team. If another team wanted to pick up Clowney the Texans would get two first-round draft picks as compensation. Any smart GM wouldn’t want to give up two first-round picks even if it was for Clowney.
So the Texans were able to franchise tag him in March. Then GM Brian Gaine stated, “Today, we placed the franchise tag on Jadeveon Clowney, but our goal is to continue to work with his representation on a long-term contract. This gives us both an opportunity to continue to do so.”
At this time Brian Gaine wanted to resign him but shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft he was fired by Texans leadership and have the organization ran by a committee of front office personnel. Clowney’s position has never truly been defined as a Defensive End or an Outside Linebacker. Since the franchise tag for a DE is $17.128 million for one year and the OLB sits at $15.443 million, it is safe to say that the organization will claim he’s an OLB.
Training camps have started for every team in the NFL but Clowney isn’t at the Texans’ training camp. He didn’t even show up to the spring workouts or to the mandatory veterans minicamp. Clowney has begun to hold out for a new contract. Clowney deserves a new contract with the Texans; he has produced for them since becoming healthy and has also been the only good option at pass rusher while Watt and Mercilus recover from injuries. Clowney may not deserve the money that Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears makes or even what Aaron Donald of the LA Rams makes but he deserves a top tier contract for his production.
What Could the Future Hold?
It’s been rumored that the former Texans GM Brian Gaine and Head Coach Bill O’Brien did not see eye to eye when it came to Clowney and that was part of the reason he was let go so suddenly. If this is true O’Brien and the new management team of the Texans are messing with what was one of the top defenses in the league with Clowney at the heart of it. For the past several years the weakness of the Texans defense was the secondary with many aging pieces such as Johnathan Joseph, who is 35, and other pieces that have not been good at all. These weaknesses were covered up by an amazing pass rush.
The Texans could sign Clowney after the 2019 season, or tag him for the second year, but they will likely not be able to afford what he could get on the open market. The Texans risk what the Oakland Raiders did with Khalil Mack in losing their best linebacker and needing them during the next season. The organization is messing with a team that has so many superstars in JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, DeAndre Hopkins, and young QB Deshaun Watson. With star power like this, the smart choice would be to pay your players and compete for the championship that looms past the wildcard game. If at the end of the 2019 season Clowney doesn’t have a contract he would be better served with an organization that could use him to his fullest potential instead of an organization that seems to be ok with the status quo.