This week, the BRB staff tackles the issue of Jadeveon Clowney’s upcoming contract extension. It’s at or near the top of GM Brian Gaine’s lengthy to-do list this offseason, but how far should the Texans go to keep Clowney in deep steel blue?
Should the Texans be willing to make Clowney the highest-paid non-QB in the NFL, as many feel will be his starting negotiation point?
You have to be concerned that J.J. Watt isn’t ever going to be the player he was, but even if he’s 70% of that, he’s going to be a top-10 NFL defensive lineman. If I’m Brian Gaine, I’m moving heaven and Earth to keep that tandem together, plus Whitney Mercilus. With so much cap room going into 2018, the Texans could hedge by front-loading the contract’s guaranteed money if they are worried Clowney’s production will drop, or that he’ll get injured. Of course that can’t all be accomplished in one favorable cap year - especially with SO MANY needs to address - but you understand my greater point.
At this point, I think it’s fair to say Watt is more injury-prone than Clowney, and it’s also fair to say you don’t have to be a Texans homer to see Clowney can still be better (maybe significantly better) than he has been so far. I would also submit Romeo Crennel will get more out of Clowney than Mike Vrabel did.
Pay him, Ri— uh, Brian.
I think Clowney is living in the perfect storm to become the highest paid non-QB in the NFL. The health issues that were once a concern with him seem to have abated for now as he’s put out two seasons of excellent performances. This, combined with the fact that J.J. Watt hasn’t been on the field for the past two seasons, has firmly installed Clowney as the defense’s biggest star and game-changer. Oh yeah, and he’s entering into his physical prime to boot.
The Texans cannot afford to let him walk, because if Watt returns and isn’t J.J. Watt, the Texans will need Clowney more than ever. If Watt does return and is J.J. Watt, you are paying to have if not the best than one of the best defensive lines in the league. If it’s me, I extend Clowney and don’t think twice about it. You don’t play around with a talent of this caliber.
On a side note, if Clowney does get a contract to become the highest paid non-QB, I think it’s going to be fascinating to watch the reaction from around the NFL in comparison to the deals that will be given out to Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald respectively. Especially considering that Donald and Mack have been far more productive as pass rushers than Clowney has been, and the typical high end contracts for defensive linemen have been given to players who have produced well as pass rushers.
In so many ways, Jadeveon Clowney has seemed like Mario Williams the Sequel, and we were at this contract point with Williams, as well.
Yes, Clowney is a fantastic athlete and he’s been more productive over the past couple of seasons, but he’s not the best defensive lineman in the league. He is, however, just 25 years old in 2018, and it’s too darn easy to see him playing at a high level for at least five more years. If you look at the big picture, Clowney’s contract won’t even be close to the best contract for a defensive lineman in 2023.
As far as I’m concerned? Back up the truck and make him the highest paid non-QB in the NFL.
It really depends on what you mean by highest-paid non QB. Is it base salary? Is it up front money? I’d be happy to give Clowney a deal with a ton of guarantees over the next two years and see where he’s at from there. I have concerns about him aging well because he’s relied primarily on his athleticism, and I don’t think you can rely on him to ever be the best edge rusher in the NFL based on what we’ve seen so far. If he hits that level and makes me eat those words, I’ll be happy about it. But, yeah, I think he’s deserving of a big deal and I wouldn’t worry about setting the market because the market will get reset again in two months or eightmonths anyway.
If we could trade him for two or three Pro Bowl caliber offensive lineman, I’d pull that trigger all day.
But since that’s only going to happen in Madden, might as well put off the McNair’s next shopping mall project and pay Clowney before Khalil Mack gets paid and Clowney’s price tag increases dramatically.
Titan Matt Weston, Slanderer of Blade Runner and Huge Fan of the Texas Rangers:
I don’t know, man. Clowney is a dominant player. He was the best run defender in football from the defensive end position that I saw last year. He still isn’t all the way there yet as a pass rusher, but he’s the only player who can generate anything, and Teams scheme against him, so he doesn’t get the stunt sacks and free easy rushes that other guys get to help the end all, be all of the defensive line box score. One on one against an offensive tackle, he is a potted plant.
This, plus his injury history, makes me apprehensive about giving Clowney everything and making him one of the league’s highest paid players. I just don’t know what else you do if you are Houston. You can’t let him walk. Franchise-tagging him would cost $17 million. The team has cap space. They don’t have other young options, and they depend on him to produce. It’s a difficult set-up.
So, yeah, Clowney probably will be one of the highest paid players in football this year, and it’ll probably come in Houston. It’s fallen into place for it to happen. But it’s a layup and not a backbreaking, glass-splaying, spider web swallowing decision.
I’d be good with a front-loaded, incentive-laden contract with clawback terms for injury, which usually translate as roster bonuses. Houston has a few years to enjoy a franchise QB on a low-cost rookie contract with Deshaun Watson, so invest that money in Clowney.
With respect to Watt, I think he’ll return to about 85% of his prime performance level, which should be enough to make the front seven legendary. If he doesn’t return to that level in 2018, it is time to have a talk about restructuring to add talent to the roster in pursuit of a championship, which I suspect Wattwould reluctantly embrace.
What are your thoughts, BRB? Is Clowney worth the huge, long-term investment? If so, to what point?