According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Seattle Seahawks free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney could be receptive to a shorter-term deal this offseason—in the hopes that he could bolster his stock for a lucrative long-term deal thereafter:
As Jadeveon Clowney continues to wait, I'm told he's considering options, including a potential shorter term deal w/ a chance to re-enter market in a year or two. Many people around league expect him back in Seattle. A $20M price tag has been steep for teams, per @diannaESPN— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 19, 2020
It begs the question of whether the Indianapolis Colts should be interested.
Of course, after the Philip Rivers’ signing, the Colts are projected to have only around $21 million of available cap space.
In order to afford Clowney, the Colts would have to shed a significant portion of backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s $21.375 cap hit for this year.
One option could be to release Brissett with a post-June 1 designation, which would allow the Colts to split his $12.5M dead money cap hit over the next two seasons—meaning only $6.25M of dead money would hit this year’s cap (the other half in 2021), and they’d still get the other $8.875M of cap savings—making it a total of $15.125M in cap relief for 2020.
Additionally, the Colts could release 3rd-string veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer outright, saving them an additional $3M this year.
In total, that’s a potential $18.125M in cap savings for the Colts, and while that would leave them without a capable backup quarterback, the team could always to look to draft their long-term answer such as Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts or Washington State’s Anthony Gordon in Rounds 2-3 to groom behind Rivers—either being much cheaper options.
After all, the Colts probably want their developmental young quarterback of the future at least getting some limited practice reps—and that doesn’t occur with either Brissett or Hoyer still in Indianapolis playing ahead of the rookie on the quarterback depth chart.
If the Colts are in “win now” mode, it doesn’t make much sense to have a highly priced quarterback like Brissett, who takes up such a huge salary cap chunk either, when Rivers has made 224 consecutive starts—dating all the way back to 2006.
Simply put, Rivers doesn’t miss games, ever.
By signing Clowney to say a 1-year, $18-20M deal, the Colts are paying him roughly the same amount as they are Brissett and Hoyer—except Clowney is actually an impact pass rusher (and well-rounded defensive end), who will actually see the field next year.
Yes, $20M is a lot of money, but the Colts would be paying him “a little extra” for one year of Clowney’s services to somewhat compensate him for playing on a shorter-term deal.
Originally the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the 6’5”, 255 pound Clowney has become a very good all-around NFL edge defender.
While he hasn’t quite lived up to his enormous hype as a pass rusher coming out of South Carolina—having never reached double-digit sacks in a season, the 27 year old has still become a 3x Pro Bowler and 1x Second-Team All-Pro in his six-year NFL career.
He’s fresh off a debut season for the Seahawks in which he recorded 31 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and an interception (for a touchdown) in 13 games (11 starts).
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Clowney was their 11th best ‘edge defender’ with a +87.3 grade overall—including a +80.8 run defense grade and a +79.1 pass rushing grade respectively.
Clowney’s career season high of sacks is 9.5 in 2017, which occurred as a member of the Houston Texans—and yes, the Colts know Clowney all too well, having had to block him from 2014-2018 in the AFC South twice a year and mitigate his ability to terrorize them off the edge.
Joining All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, Clowney’s addition would give the Colts one of the most dominant front sevens in all of football—and general manager Chris Ballard has consistently preached about ‘winning in the trenches’ since his arrival in 2017.
Yes, the Colts already have two impactful defensive ends: veteran Justin Houston and the emerging 3rd-year pro Kemoko Turay. However, Houston is 31 years old, and Turay is coming off a season-ending ankle surgery.
From that perspective, it might be in the Colts’ best interest to be a little careful with both.
Signing Clowney would allow the Colts to consistently rotate their defensive ends: Houston, Clowney, Turay, and even 2nd-year pro Ben Banogu—which could keep their legs fresh in order to better get after the quarterback throughout a course of the game—and better hold up over a full season.
Clowney is also a stout run defender—holding the edge, and it’s possible that he would see a lot more of the early down, run defense work over Turay—saving the latter’s legs for purely pass rushing work, where he largely excels at.
If the Colts are serious about hoisting the elusive Lombardi Trophy next year, then signing Clowney on a short-term deal makes much more sense than keeping Brissett on his—because one is much more likely to consistently make a high impact on the field in 2020.