Moore: Clowney has been a bargain, but will Seahawks try to keep him?
It’s way too early to look at what the Seahawks will do in free agency in the offseason, but hey, it’s a bye week, and for the first time this season, we saw a Jadeveon Clowney that might be worth a contract averaging $20 million a year.
He was a constant menace in the Seahawks’ 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco with 10 quarterback hits, a sack, a forced fumble and a scoop-and-score with a fumble caused by Jarran Reed’s sack of Jimmy Garoppolo. Clowney is also an effective run-stopper, helping limit the 49ers to 3.2 yards per carry.
I don’t think Clowney will ever have a double-digit sack season – his high-water marks have been 9.5 in 2017 and 9 in 2018. I agree with assessments I’ve heard about Clowney, that he’s a better all-around athlete than a pass rusher. The league’s best pass rushers get into the teens in sacks, but you could argue that Clowney might be more consistently disruptive than other elite players at his position. The run-stopping part of his game is extremely valuable on a defense that has had its struggles in that department over the last two years.
General manager John Schneider will have to determine if Clowney is worth $20 million a year, or maybe as much as $22 million a year if he wants to be the highest paid defensive end in the league (DeMarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys is the current No. 1 at $21 million a year).
As part of the trade with the Texans, the Seahawks agreed to not put the franchise tag on Clowney at the end of the season. He’s making $15 million this year, but the Texans picked up $7 million of that amount, meaning the Seahawks are getting a heck of a deal this year with their $8 million investment in Clowney.
If you’re rooting for Schneider to give Clowney what he’s looking for, you’d point to Monday night’s game and you’d also ask where the Seahawks’ defensive line would be without him. But if you’re thinking $20 million is too much, you’d point to games where Clowney wasn’t a big factor and played on a defensive line that had a nine-game stretch with only nine sacks. And you’d wonder if the Seahawks were overpaying for a player who’s on a pace for five sacks this season.
You also have to consider how much a Clowney signing would impact the ability to keep other Seahawks who are in the last year of their contracts. Would you risk losing Jarran Reed? He’s the next-best player on the free-agent list but there are others you’d assume the Seahawks would want to keep, such as Quinton Jefferson and Mychal Kendricks.
Presumably Clowney is enjoying his time in Seattle, playing with his good friend Duane Brown, helping the Seahawks to an 8-2 record that might turn into a 12-4 season and serious run for the Super Bowl. All of those things might contribute to some type of “hometown” discount, with Seattle owning the tiebreaker over other teams that will negotiate for Clowney’s services.
If it were up to me, I’d hope those factors would come into play, but if they don’t, I’d try to keep Clowney anyway, even if I end up losing Reed. He’s that much of a difference-maker.