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Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney
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Pay him: Why the Seahawks need to lock up Jadeveon Clowney past 2019

Jadeveon Clowney has just three sacks but could be the Seahawks' defensive MVP. (Getty)

“Hey Pawl, what’s the most effective way to build a Super Bowl roster?”

As a Madden franchise mode legend, few people are better equipped to answer that question than me.

Has Shaquem Griffin passed Ziggy Ansah on Seahawks’ depth chart?

There’s a variety of different ways:

• Some general managers swear by the draft. The more draft picks they have, the more chances they get to find cheap, young talent.

• Others believe that if you’ve got a solid nucleus, you should roll the dice in free agency.

• Occasionally, some teams take advantage of a control-freak head coach playing general manager

• … like, by acquiring an athletic former first-overall pick for a third-rounder and a couple of bottom-of-the-roster players.

• … and on top of that, getting that control freak head coach to pay half of the player’s contract.

“Really professional list PAWL. Do you really have to remind people that a wannabe Super Bowl contender traded away one of its best players for practically nothing?”

That’s not the point of this article, my dear reader/listener. We learned something Monday night: Jadeveon Clowney is the Seahawks’ best defensive player. Even the NFL saw it, naming him NFC defensive player of the week. So here I am calling for Seattle to give him a long-term extension once the season ends.

Clowney is a confusing player to understand, so as someone who has watched every single one of his NFL games since his rookie season with the Texans, let me lay it out for you.

• He is one of the most explosive athletes that you’ll ever see off the line of scrimmage.

• He is incredibly strong for a guy maybe 20 pounds lighter than the average offensive lineman.

• He doesn’t get the most sacks, but he makes his presence felt, commanding double teams and driving linemen back into quarterbacks.

• On top of that, I’d argue he’s the best run defender in the NFL.

• And as a plus, he happens to have wide receiver straight line speed.

In a nutshell, he’s an NFL unicorn.

Seth Payne, a 10-year veteran defensive lineman for the Jaguars and Texans who works at SportsRadio 610 in Houston, described Clowney to me as the nose tackle of edge rushers. I think it’s the perfect description. He might never quite get 10 sacks in a season, but you can’t deny how much of an impact he has on a game defending both the run and pass.

“But PAWL! Even if Clowney is good, how can you rationalize giving him a contract worth nine figures when he’s never had more than 10 sacks in a season and only has three this year? Especially when he’s had four knee surgeries in his career?”

All are valid questions. My counter-point: Where would this Seahawks defense be without Clowney in 2019? Or with him on another roster in 2020?

To keep elite talent in the NFL, you have to overspend. And when you do, there will come a day where the player isn’t worth that overpay. You’re paying based on past performances more than for the future. Take a look at the highest-paid pass rushers in the NFL, and their actual production:

• Khalil Mack: 6 years, $141 million (5.5 sacks through 9 games)
• Aaron Donald: 6 years, $135 million (5.5 sacks through 9 games)
• Von Miller: 6 years, $114.1 million (4 sacks through 9 games)
• DeMarcus Lawrence: 5 years, $105 million (4.5 sacks through 9 games)
• Frank Clark: 5 years, $104 million (4 sacks through 8 games)
• Fletcher Cox: 6 years, $106.2 million (2.5 sacks through 9 games)
• J.J. Watt: 6 years, $100 million (4 sacks through 8 games before a season-ending injury)
• Trey Flowers: 5 years, $90 million (5 sacks through 9 games)
• Dee Ford: 5 years, $85.5 million (5.5 sacks through 9 games)
• Olivier Vernon: 5 years, $85 million (3 sacks through 8 games)

The total sums of those contracts are intimidating figures, even though they’re really just three- to four-year deals of up-front money with opt-out flexibility. They’re even scarier when you realize that none of those 10 rank higher than 27th in sacks.

“PAWL. Doesn’t that mean you SHOULDN’T pay for premium pass rusher talent?”

You could argue that. But sacks aren’t the end all be all – just look at Clowney. And you’d also have to explain to me how any of the teams above would be better off without those players. Good luck.

So don’t think about any of the totals above. Think simplistically. Given the struggles of the Seahawks’ defense during the first half of the season, isn’t it worth it to overpay Clowney over the next three or so years? The answer is an obvious yes. He’s been the most consistent player on the Hawks front seven this season and it hasn’t been close.

Still not sold? If the Seahawks let him walk, what’s their alternative? You’re unlikely to find someone who can be more impactful in the draft, especially in his rookie season. Just look at Seattle’s 2019 first-round pick, defensive end L.J. Collier. You could also roll the dice on a Ziggy Ansah type, hoping that injuries haven’t derailed his career, but that hasn’t worked well either. Maybe another team without a general manager will panic and trade the Hawks a former first-overall pick for a ham sandwich. You never know!

Don’t be scared of a massive contract. And don’t be nervous about a lack of numbers from a guy who may never satisfy you. The only world where the Seahawks have a plus defense – both in 2019 AND 2020 – is a world where they’ve locked up Jadeveon Clowney. Pay him.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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