According to ESPN (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are the ‘perfect free agent match’ for Tennessee Titans’ free agent edge Jadeveon Clowney:
Indianapolis Colts: Edge Jadeveon Clowney
2020 team: Titans | Age entering 2021 season: 28
Clowney fits perfectly in the Colts’ two-high structure on defense because he can be a one-man wrecking crew against the run, and allow the Colts to continue to live with a down safety in the box. Clowney’s grade has continued to drop in recent years, but he’s still not even 30 years old yet. He’s only two seasons removed from earning a career-high PFF grade of 87.2, so a bounce-back year is not entirely out of the question.
Having signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Titans last offseason, Clowney recorded just 19 tackles (14 solo), 6 QB hits, 22 total QB hurries, 4 passes defensed, and a forced fumble during 8 starts—before being placed on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury.
He was PFF’s 19th best edge defender with a +74.9 grade overall in 2020.
The former top overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft has flashed dominance at times—as a former NFL All-Pro and Pro Bowler, but hasn’t quite lived up to his high draft billing and enormous hype coming out of South Carolina.
Of course, the Colts know Clowney all too well—as he played from the Houston Texans from 2014-2018 and helped terrorize the rest of the AFC South in the process.
As a disclaimer, during last year’s offseason, I was in favor of the Colts signing Clowney on a short-term deal to help boost their pass rush and replace the overall versatility of departed defensive line starter Jabaal Sheard.
However, at this stage of his career, Clowney is arguably a better run stuffer, setting the edge than he is as a pass rusher—as lingering knee injuries may have sapped some of his prior explosiveness coming off the edge and ability to push the pocket.
While he’s still only 28 years old, Clowney has never had a double-digit sack season in his career and has had just 3.0 sacks in his last 19 NFL starts. He was last an impact pass rusher in 2018, when he had 9.0 sacks for the Houston Texans defense.
In a 2021 free agent pass rush class that may include the Cincinnati Bengals Carl Lawson, the Detroit Lions Romeo Okwara, the Baltimore Ravens Yannick Ngakoue, the Pittsburgh Steelers Bud Dupree, and maybe even the Denver Broncos Von Miller among others, and Clowney would be a lot lower on any offseason edge ‘wish list’ in comparison.
It shouldn’t be that Clowney should be completely ruled out—especially if his signing comes at a severely discounted price, but there are projected better potential pass rushing options available for the Colts right now.
From that perspective, he’s far from the ‘perfect free agent match’ for Indianapolis.