Moore: Best-case, worst-case and middle-case scenarios of Seahawks’ trade for Jadeveon Clowney
I can usually find a cloud in a blue sky, but it’s hard to see any negatives in the Seahawks’ trade for Jadeveon Clowney.
But let’s look at the worst-case scenario anyway. What if Clowney fails to exceed his career-high of 9.5 sacks in 2017? What if injuries slow him down? What if Jacob Martin becomes a marquee pass-rusher for the Texans? What if Barkevious Mingo transforms himself into the highly touted first-rounder he was expected to be when drafted sixth overall by the Browns in 2013? And what if the Texans turn the 2020 third-round pick they got from the Seahawks into a future All-Pro?
I’d answer all of those questions with one word: Unlikely. There’s a better chance that Clowney records 10 or more sacks. Martin is so darn likable and showed so much promise late last year that I hope he ends up being a force with Houston, but that’s a 50-50 shot at best. Mingo joins his fifth team in six years and has never lived up to his draft status so why would that change now? And third-rounders are more apt to be middle-of-the-road players than All-Pros. Plus the Seahawks will get a third-round compensatory pick if Clowney leaves in free agency after the season, and they still have a third-rounder next year that they got from the Ravens after Earl Thomas went to Baltimore in free agency.
Middle-case scenario: Clowney gives the Seahawks eight or nine sacks and 58 quarterback pressures like he had last year. Another possibility you can count on: He will improve a Seahawks run defense that allowed 4.9 rushing yards per carry last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Clowney was the second-best edge defender last year against the run.
But if you’re more into what he can add to the pass rush, even eight or nine sacks would be as many if not more than what the Seahawks could have expected from Martin and Mingo combined. Plus if you want to talk about Cassius Marsh, who was waived and claimed by Arizona, I never thought he was going to be all that great as a pass-rusher anyway. He had 5.5 sacks last year, but 2.5 of those came against a sorry Raiders offensive line.
Best-case scenario: Clowney not only upgrades the run defense but teams with a healthy Ziggy Ansah for 25 sacks as the Seahawks unleash one of the top pass-rushes in the league, complemented by periodic blitzes from linebackers Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks.
And stop to think about how good this defensive line will be in Week 7 when Jarran Reed returns from his six-game suspension. They’ll have Reed and the blossoming Poona Ford at defensive tackle along with Ansah, Clowney and first-round draft pick L.J. Collier at defensive end.
That collection of stars and potential future stars will help what could be a so-so secondary, causing bad throws and increasing the possibility of more drive-stopping and game-changing interceptions.
On top of that, general manager John Schneider somehow got the Texans to agree to pick up $7 million of the $15.97 million on Clowney’s franchise tag, reducing the hit on the team’s salary cap. And I don’t even care that the Seahawks had to agree not to tag Clowney after the 2019 season to make the deal work – if he leaves, as mentioned, the Seahawks get a third-rounder in return. In the meantime, he can blow up backfields in Seattle, and if he has a great season playing in a 4-3 defense on the same team as his good friend Duane Brown, he might be inclined to stay. In keeping with the promise of that actually happening, the Seahawks have all kinds of room under the cap next year to give him a mega-deal if warranted.
From my perspective, the only downside of cut-down weekend was the waiving of Austin Calitro, who I thought earned a spot on the team but fell victim to a linebacker logjam of talent. Nonetheless, I still think he should have been kept over Shaquem Griffin.
But that’s a minor decision compared to the one that Schneider made with Clowney, bringing in a prime-time pass-rusher that elevates the Seahawks’ odds of winning the NFC West.