It’s been an arduous free agency for former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who has spent the past six months hearing crickets on an endless loop. But with Week 1 approaching, the three-time Pro Bowler’s market is beginning to heat up with New Orleans and Tennessee both hot on Clowney’s trail. A 6’5,” 255-pound monstrosity whose blazing 40 time (4.53) puts him in the 99th percentile of NFL pass-rushers, Clowney amassed 31 tackles, three sacks (the fewest he’s totaled since his injury-plagued 2014), four forced fumbles, two recoveries and a pick-six in 13 games as a Seahawk in 2019.
Potential suitors initially scoffed at Clowney’s exorbitant asking price (which has come down considerably), citing the veteran’s extensive injury history and perceived low motor. The way the former South Carolina Gamecock forced his way out of Houston last summer may also have rubbed teams the wrong way.
However, for a team with championship aspirations like the Saints—who see their title window rapidly closing with Alvin Kamara playing hardball in contract negotiations and Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees likely heading into his final season—there’s little downside to taking a one-year flyer on Clowney, who has proven to be one of the league’s elite defenders when healthy and motivated. Though a deal may not materialize until after teams make their final cuts (rosters must be reduced to 53 players by 4 PM ET Saturday), the Saints appear to be the frontrunner to land Clowney, who reportedly dined with New Orleans coach Sean Payton in Pearland, Texas (a Houston suburb) on Friday night.
Clowney seems to be cozying up to the Saints, who claimed their third straight division title on the strength of a 13-3 regular-season record last year. After a string of playoff heartbreaks including a pair of gut-wrenching losses to Minnesota, New Orleans is due to catch a break sooner or later. Adding Clowney to a defense featuring perennial Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan (who placed a respectable 20th in RDC’s player rankings for the 2020 season) and former Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, among other difference-makers, would make New Orleans prohibitive favorites in the NFC South, even with the star-studded Bucs boasting one of the league’s most potent offenses.
Will Tennessee be offered a rebuttal in the Clowney sweepstakes, or has the 27-year-old’s mind already been made? We should know by the end of the weekend.