Moore: Why Seahawks might be better off if Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t re-sign
I think we all hope the Seahawks retain Jadeveon Clowney. Can you imagine that defensive line or defense in general without him?
But at what price? The Seahawks have $58.3 million in salary-cap space, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, so if they want to give him $20 million a year, they could afford to do it. But should they?
My first reaction – yes, by all means, give him something in the neighborhood that Frank Clark got from Kansas City: five years, $105.5 million with $63.5 million guaranteed. Then again, do Chiefs fans think Clark was worth that contract this year? After getting 13 sacks for the Seahawks in 2018, Clark had only eight this year.
Stats-wise, Clowney was really good, but it’s hard to say he was spectacular. Three sacks, four forced fumbles, 10 tackles for loss and a pick six. To the naked eye, we saw him all season and he was terrific. There were many, many times we all opened our mouths in amazement at some crazy play he made. We also know what a difference he made in the run defense, but even with him, Seattle ranked 23rd in rushing yards allowed.
But the way he played the last half of the season with his core injury was nothing short of outstanding. A Clowney at 60 percent or 70 percent or whatever he was was still better than most of the Seahawks’ defensive linemen at 90 or 100 percent.
If I had to list odds on where Clowney plays in 2020, I’d make the Seahawks the favorite. He enjoyed being here and loves playing with Russell Wilson. After the season ended in Green Bay, he said he wants to play for a Super Bowl contender. John Clayton notes that it would benefit Clowney if he played for a 4-3 defense, and Seattle checks that box too.
As a contingency to the Seahawks’ trade with Houston to acquire Clowney, they agreed to not put the franchise tag on Clowney at the end of the season, giving him the freedom to sign with another team. No one’s told me anything, but I’d be most concerned about him ending up in Carolina. I say this after reading Adam Jude’s story in the Seattle Times last week. It’s pretty clear to me that the South Carolina native loves his roots, and the tug to go home may be too hard to ignore if the money’s right from the Panthers.
Clowney will turn 27 on Valentine’s Day so he’s in the middle of his prime, and you could bet that as long as he’s healthy, he’ll be a wrecking ball for the next five years, so no age concerns there.
But I’m not so sure that the Seahawks should go crazy with their offer to keep him. If he wants to stay for $17 million, maybe even $18 million, pull the trigger. But something more than that? Let him go.
In the three games without him, the Seahawks averaged two sacks a game, which was slightly higher than the 1.7 average they had in the 13 games he played. They also went 2-1 in those games – beating the Eagles and Panthers, losing to the Cardinals – and gave up 26 points in the 13 games with him and 20 points in the three games without him.
You could make a bigger case, statistically anyway, that safety Quandre Diggs was more valuable to Seattle’s defense than Clowney this year.
The Seahawks might be better off letting Clowney go and pursuing one of the two elite pass-rushers in free agency this year – Shaq Barrett of Tampa Bay or Yannick Ngakoue of Jacksonville.
Barrett is the more interesting of the two, recording 19.5 sacks this year. And his position – outside linebacker – might make him more affordable than if he were considered purely a defensive end. Ngakoue had eight sacks for the Jaguars this year and has 37.5 in his four-year career.
Now, who knows, both players might be franchised and won’t be available on March 18 when the free agency free-for-all begins. But if they are available, I’d push for the Seahawks going after BOTH players instead of attempting to retain Clowney.
Why? Two reasons:
1) Look at what a difference free-agent signings of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith made for the Packers this year. They combined for 25.5 sacks, 2.5 fewer than the season total for the Seahawks. We saw them both in action last Sunday, constantly harassing Russell Wilson.
2) How much better would the secondary be with a pass rush you could count on week in, week out? As it is, I don’t think they’re very good at all collectively, passable at best by league standards. Maybe a frequently ferocious pass rush would lead to even more interceptions in 2020 and improved play overall.
A lot of moving parts here, but if Clowney’s financial demands are too high, Plan B with the pursuit of Barrett and Ngakoue could turn out better than Plan A anyway.
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