Will Seahawks’ Clowney’s play Sunday impact his next contract?
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney returns to the Seahawks’ lineup after missing two straight games for the team’s biggest game of the year, a battle with the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West title.
The last time Seattle played San Francisco, Clowney had arguably the best performance of his NFL career, compiling a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, five quarterback hits and a number of quarterback pressures. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his stellar play.
It was in that game that Clowney suffered the core injury that has cost him three games since Week 10. Seattle is 1-2 with Clowney out of the lineup.
Now, the Seahawks need Clowney to perform well in order to win the division. For Clowney, it’s another chance to show the Seahawks as well as the NFL’s other 31 teams that he is deserving of a long-term deal after the season.
Clowney was traded to the Seahawks shortly before Week 1 from the Houston Texans after holding out the entire offseason. He only signed his contract tender when a deal was in lace to send him to Seattle, which was his preferred destination.
He is on the last year of his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Seahawks agreed to not sign Clowney to the franchise tag, and will have a limited window to try and re-sign him before he is free to talk to all other teams.
After a brief absence and with so much on the line, will Clowney’s play have any impact on his next deal? 710 ESPN Seattle’s Michael Bumpus doesn’t think so.
“I think he has nothing to lose,” Bumpus said on Danny and Gallant. “He can go out there and perform very average and be OK because he’s done enough, and he has a disclaimer: ‘I’m battling through an injury right now.’”
While Clowney’s numbers this season don’t jump out, he’s made a big impact in both the passing game and the run game, disrupting both when he plays. Bumpus thinks it’s been enough to entice Seattle to sign him to a long-term contract.
“He’s done enough, I feel like this year, to where the Hawks want him,” Bumpus said. “If he wants to be here, the Hawks will make a deal. And if he doesn’t want to be here, anyone else is going to make a deal for him as well, so this is just another game for him, but on the Hawks’ level, they need him to win this game.”
Clowney was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and has played well throughout his career. Seattle typically drafts later in the draft because of their team’s success, so players with Clowney’s athleticism and skill who can make a big impact against passing and rushing attacks don’t often end up in Seattle, especially when they’re very young. Clowney is just 26 years old.
“You just don’t get a Clowney,” Bumpus said. “When’s the last time the Seahawks have had a Clowney? Frank Clark was good last year and he had a bunch of sacks. You’d still take Clowney over Frank Clark.”
Clark was one of three players, including quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was looking for a big payday in the offseason. Seattle signed the latter to long-term deals and traded Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for draft picks. They’d originally placed the franchise tag on him, which would have cost over $17 million this season.
While Clark is prone to get more sacks than Clowney, Bumpus says Clowney is a more complete defensive lineman.
“(The lack of sacks is) what hurts his stock to the average fan,” Bumpus said. “Again, look at the film, watch what he does and you’ll change your mind.”
710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton later echoed Bumpus’ thoughts. He sees keeping Clowney as a top priority for the Seahawks if the price is right, regardless of what happens Sunday.
“If he wants over $20 million (per season), that might be difficult. If he’s willing to go under $20 million, I think that you can work something out because I think he’s good enough, and I think you can see his integrity in the way that he plays,” Clayton said “Certainly you have to be cautious about his injury history. That has to be taken into account and could discount him a little bit, and I think he wants to play here.”
Clowney has missed games throughout his career due to injuries, and his current core injury will likely require surgery after the season. Clowney told reporters this week that he would be selfish not to play in this game when he’s able to play through the pain. He also said earlier in the year that he has learned how to be a better professional while in Seattle, so much so that he wishes he could have handled the break up with the Texans better. His apparent comfort in Seattle could play a big role in his next deal.
Seattle also fits Clowney’s skill set scheme-wise.
When Clowney played collegiately at South Carolina, he played defensive end in a 4-3 defensive scheme, which is what Seattle runs. In Houston, he was in a 3-4 scheme and sometimes had to drop into coverage as an outside linebacker. Clayton thinks that because of how Seattle has used Clowney in 2019, it could lead him to wanting to return because he played a role he was comfortable with.
“His best thing to do is not only put his hand in the ground and rush the quarterback, but also to be able to get his hands up and deflect balls … but he’s also very good at stopping the run,” Clayton said. “That’s why I think in the end, you want to try and get something done as far as the right price.”
Another reason Clayton sees the Seahawks trying their hardest to get Clowney back is because of depth at defensive end.
Clayton said he doesn’t think Ziggy Ansah returns next year unless it’s for less money than the $9 million he made this year, and if Clowney leaves, then Rasheem Green, Shaquem Griffin and L.J. Collier are the only remaining edge rushers. Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson are both on one-year deals.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult negotiation, but I think his heart’s here,” Clayton said.
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