Rost’s Seahawks Takeaways: Is a reunion with DE Jadeveon Clowney a possibility?

Mar 23, 2021, 8:35 AM
Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney...
The Seahawks could reunite with 2019 DE Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. (AP)

One week into free agency and the Seahawks have two new players and two returning starters. It’s been an otherwise quiet week for Seattle compared to other teams (looking at you, Patriots) but the churn of the NFL news cycle can still be felt in the Pacific Northwest.

Jake and Stacy: Seahawks hit ‘home run’ by re-signing RB Chris Carson

Here are this week’s top NFL headlines, tailored for the point of view of Seahawks fans:

The story: Jadeveon Clowney remains the top unsigned free agent

The question: Is a reunion between Clowney and the Seahawks in the future?

Well, here we are again. Last summer’s “Clowney Watch” saga ended with the former first overall pick signing with Tennessee and with Seattle moving on. In his place, the Seahawks went with the much more affordable Benson Mayowa (six sacks in 2020) and, later, Carlos Dunlap (six sacks in 2020). Turns out it was the right call.

It was also a temporary fix. Dunlap put together a stellar, if abbreviated, season for Seattle, but his salary quickly jumped into the “unaffordable” column for a cash-strapped team. The Seahawks released the veteran edge rusher in early March, clearing up $14.5 million in cap space. Seattle drafted two defensive ends to bolster the line; Alton Robinson strung together a promising rookie season, but second-round pick Darrell Taylor has yet to play a snap.

So, Seattle is once again in need of some veteran pass rush help. And this time, Clowney could be checking in at a significantly more affordable deal.

The problem with being a No. 1 overall pick is that it’s so easy to fall short of expectations, and that’s how many critics have fairly summarized the more recent seasons of Clowney’s career. That’s been in large part due to injury. Clowney had his best game of the season for the Seahawks in 2019 against the 49ers with a sack, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery touchdown. It was the most dominant performance for any player that night on either side of the ball and showcased the unstoppable force Clowney can be when at his best.

Unfortunately, he also suffered a core injury in that same game and was hampered for the remainder of the year before undergoing core muscle surgery in February 2020. His most recent season with the Titans also ended with injury and no sacks — the first time he went without a sack since his rookie year in Houston.

So, Seahawks fans could be forgiven for choosing to pass on reunion (and, more agonizingly, another offseason of tracking Clowney’s every move). But there’s still plenty of reason for intrigue.

Clowney is just 28 years old and tops the lists of available free agents both in Gregg Rosenthal’s NFL feature and Pro Football Focus. PFF points out that Clowney’s underwhelming 2020 season and sky-high upside could combine for a bargain of a deal at edge rusher.

Consider this stat they highlight: Clowney’s 28 pressures are the most of any defender without a sack. And before you complain, know that also would’ve led all Seahawks defenders (ahead of Jamal Adams’ team-high 26 pressures).

Right now, the Seahawks have Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, and second-year players Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor as their defensive ends. There’s promise there – especially if Collier lives up to his first-round grade, and if Robinson and Taylor can make an impact — but also some liability. Adding Clowney won’t solve all of Seattle’s pass rush woes, but it offers one solution without breaking the bank.

The story: Ex-Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds signs with the Titans

The question: Will the Seahawks continue to add at wide receiver?

Ex-Rams tight end Gerald Everett followed in the footsteps of new Seahawks coordinator Shane Waldron and made a move to Seattle, but any hope a second Rams pass catcher would follow suit ended when Josh Reynolds signed a deal with Tennessee Monday morning.

The Seahawks are still in need of a third wide receiver after the departure of David Moore late last week. Freddie Swain, last year’s sixth-round pick out of Florida, could fill the role if the Seahawks don’t sign outside talent in free agency. His 159 yards trailed Moore’s 417, but he provides a speedy slot receiver option to complement Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf (and would obviously receive additional targets).

There are still some pricey free agent options. Wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Sammy Watkins are two of the top options available and remain unsigned (though the latter reportedly visited with the Ravens Monday, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).

The story: Chris Carson reportedly re-signs with Seahawks on three-year deal with voidable third year

The question: What’s a voidable year and why are we seeing this more often this offseason?

OK, technically this is already a Seahawks headline. But I’ve seen a ton of questions about “voidable years” with this year’s contracts, so we invited CBS Sports salary cap expert Joel Corry on with Jake and Stacy to help us understand.

Joel, what does the voidable year in Carson’s deal mean?

“This is something you’re seeing teams are doing more this year because the cap dropped (to $182 million from $198 million),” Corry said. “Carson has a $4.5 million signing bonus. It’s two-year deal where they snuck a dummy voiding 2023 year. They can stretch the signing bonus and pro-rate it over three years as opposed to two. That makes his 2021 cap number $2.5 million. The contract expires in 2023, and after the 2022 season, there will be a $1.5 million of a cap charge because of the proration that’s being associated with that 2023 dummy year.”

Long story short: the voidable year makes Carson’s deal much more cap-friendly this season.

Pushing those cap charges into later seasons feels like a pricey commitment, but the salary cap is expected to balloon once again in 2022 and 2023, making it far more palatable to absorb the cost.

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