BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 05/10/2020

Thiel: Who needs Clowney? Not the Seahawks

The speculations about Jadeveon Clowney’s fate are seemingly endless. One thing seems more certain: The Seahawks have loaded up and are moving on.

Against Green Bay in the playoffs, DE Jadeveon Clowney was in on seven tackles, shared a sack, had two hurries and a quarterback hit. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Are you like me? Do you wonder if we’ll have a coronavirus vaccine before Jadeveon Clowney decides where to play?

Actually, you probably have larger concerns. But in the vast desert of sports news, a Clowney speculation story pops up randomly between the cracks, and suddenly it is treated as a sequoia.

Yet, as one who vows to never criticize another person’s garden, here I am, pruners in hand, ready to help.

The latest sprig was a report last week by Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson, who was told by an unnamed source that the free-agent defensive end was unlikely to re-join the Seahawks because the club reduced its offer. Presumably, that was because they hired some replacement help in fellow free-agent pass rushers Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa.

The story followed shortly after the beginning of Clowney’s PR campaign Tuesday, an interview with a TV news station in Houston, where Clowney lives and works out. The video showed him engaged in robust drills, looking in the manner of a player in perfect health. He was also in perfect rhetorical manner, saying nothing but warm, kind things about his lone season in Seattle.

It was his first public appearance and utterance since he had abdominal surgery for a sports hernia that diminished his play for much of the season’s second half, so the report was a thing:

The interview included a bit of actual insight: Clowney offered some awareness about the health questions surrounding him, something that wasn’t clear he had.

“It might have a little more than I expected,” he said, almost off-handedly.

In the absence of any confirmed evidence of the size of the offer from Seattle, or any other bidders, it’s plain by Clowney’s continued unemployment that he over-estimated his market value.

As followers of this saga know, the error was compounded by complications from the coronavirus.

On March 16, two days before free agency began, the NFL responded to naional public-health warnings with a memo to all 32 teams barring in-person interviews with free agents, requiring local physical examinations for them, rather than team-conducted exams. The league also banned travel by team personnel to meet with free agents as well as those players traveling to team facilities.

The abrupt decision has trapped Clowney to this day, because the Seahawks are the only team to know his condition, and perhaps his future physical limitations.

Rival bidders have to ask: Why would a team with one of the crappiest pass rushes in the league in 2019 decline to re-invest in a top player at their biggest weakness?

Whatever the Seahawks know, they certainly seem secure enough in it to risk the embarrassment of Clowney signing elsewhere and fulfilling his potential as one of the league’s top edge rushers.

“We took a good run at it,” Schneider told KJR-AM radio last week. “It didn’t happen. He’s a great guy. He fit in great in the locker room, did a really nice job for us, but we need to be conducting business, and he just was not in a position to make a move. So we gave it a run and now you’ve got to keep going, and that’s what we’ve done.”

What the Seahawks had done became more clear Friday, went Irvin’s contract became public. Instead of the speculated compensation of $3 million to $4 million, reported the one-year deal was $5.9 million, including $3 million guaranteed.

That’s a lot less than Clowney’s original top-shelf desire to be paid around $21 million, but it does make Irvin the eighth-highest paid Seahawk. Combined with Mayowa’s $3 million, the pair, both former Seahawks, represent a considerable investment in the position.

So despite the public pleasantries from Schneider and coach Pete Carroll about wanting the return of Clowney, who had three sacks in 13 games while facing a lot of double-teams, they clearly determined he isn’t worth the wait. Particularly in this season, when personnel decisions are going to be scrambled because of the lost live practice time due to the covid-19 restrictions.

The Seahawks can say they haven’t “closed the door,” because they may have an emergency need for help down the line. But they would rather have that cash available for all positions now rather than commit, say, $10 million to Clowney, for a combined $20 million to three players who play about the same position.

Keeping financial powder dry for in-season hires, as was the case in September when the Seahawks surprised the NFL by trading with Houston for Clowney, might be more important this season because of the risk throughout NFL camps of increased injuries from the absence of standard off-season training that will damage teams close to the cap.

“There will be cap-casualty guys out there throughout the off-season,” Schneider told KJR. “What you don’t want to do is bring yourself right to the point (up against he salary cap) where you’re not able to add players that are all of a sudden available on the market that you didn’t see coming.”

Don’t get the impression that Irvin, 33, and Mayowa, 29 in August, are anything but one-year patches. The real game changer in Seattle for Clowney’s situation was the draft of Tennessee rusher Darrell Taylor in the second round.

The more that is learned about Taylor, the more he looks like a long-term answer. Obviously, a potentially truncated season is a lousy way to start an NFL career, but video analyst Samuel Gold sees a lot of raw materials in the guy for whom the Seahawks moved up 11 spots to take.

A year ago, Clowney played the long game in Texas with a contract holdout that forced a trade to Seattle. It seemed to work for him then, and it may work for him this summer.

But the Seahawks largely have put themselves into a position where they don’t have to care.

All they need is a season in which to prove it.


  • jafabian

    A month ago some sports writers were predicting that Clowney would do a one year deal with the Hawks since teams were being cool to the idea of signing him to a multi-year contract without being able to give him a physical. And that was before the draft and signing Irvin. He gambled and lost. He could still do that however. I’m sure he (or his agent) don’t want a situation where he outplays his contract but is stuck with it. Maybe a one year deal with the Hawks is in his best interests. I wasn’t really on board with him being the highest paid player on the defense. That honor should be to B-Swag.

    • art thiel

      The lockdown really damaged him, as well as other free agents in his circumstance. But he has always bet on himself. He believes he is 100 percent after surgery, but nobody but the Seahawks has a handle on that claim. You’re right about the Wagner salary. They can’t top that.

      • jafabian

        Clowney needs to take a realistic look at his situation. He wants Khalil Mack money but he hasn’t had the kind of career to get it. At least Mack got Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year awards and multiple Pro Bowl and All Pro awards before his big payout which Clowney has not. So in that light the only teams that will give him anything close to what he wants is a non-contender. No established team will let him waltz in and be the highest paid. And then he’ll realize that since that team won’t be making the playoffs he won’t make his incentive bonuses and so won’t make the salary he thought he would. Those teams also might move him to LB where he prefers being an Edge rusher. A one year deal in Seattle only makes sense if he can’t visit teams.

        • art thiel

          Your “ifs” are all plausible. But it’s May. The first games aren’t until mid-September, if then. Many things will have changed. He’ll wait, as he did a year ago.

  • Joe_Fan

    Art, is there any glimmer of hope, whatsoever, that Collier could become the player he was drafted to be? Are you hearing anything positive about him that isn’t spin? We all know about his injury in training camp last year but at some point you have to deliver.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks coaches have been consistent in their praise of his potential. But what else would they say: “Man, what a bust this guy is”? It’s been just one season. Ifedi at least got four.

  • coug73

    My Mom says pay the man.

    • art thiel

      This is her day to be heard.

  • Alan Harrison

    I can’t imagine a scenario where Clowney is a Seahawk next season, and that’s okay. A) Who even knows if there’ll be a next season? That uncertainty would make me unable to pull the trigger on a one-year deal for him not to play; 2) The Sam-and-Diane “Cheers” analogy of “Will they? Won’t they?” gets really tired. At this point, with no one likely to sign him on a multi-year deal at kerjillions per year, he’ll be available next year if the Seahawks really want him. Time to move on and see who pops out of other teams’ cap casualties.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks and all teams have to operate on the premise that there will be a season. They can always scale back, but they can’t recover from decisions that anticipate a short or no season.

      Yes, the Clowney story has become wearisome. But in the void . . .

    • Husky73

      Can’t ever go wrong with a “Cheers” reference.

  • Husky73

    As a buyer, if my first offer is not accepted, my second offer is less. …”Hey, I’m the guy you offered $15,000 for that Ford a few days ago. I’ve thought it over and I accept.” …..”Well, my offer is now $12,500.”

    • art thiel

      In any negotiation, time and circumstances change.

      • Husky73

        True, and Clowney has time, but he may have missed his moment, not only with the Seahawks.

  • Chris Alexander

    (IMO) …. IF there is a season then Clowney WILL get paid … if not by Seattle then by someone else.

    Because IF there is a season then that means travel is allowed, and if travel is allowed then players can visit team facilities and/or team doctors can evaluate them. And once that happens, Clowney WILL sign with someone.

    Will he get $20M+ a year? Probably not. But someone WILL pay him. Even if they have to release half a dozen players to do so.

    Assuming, of course, that there IS a season.

    • art thiel

      The IF, I hope, is well understood by all. And yes, someone is likely to give him a one-year, prove-it deal. I assumed those points were clear.

  • tor5

    Thanks for interesting analysis, Art. Any word on Everson Griffen? Does he still figure into this in any way?