There have been plenty of rumors concerning Jadeveon Clowney and the Houston Texans drifting apart swirling around the football world. This week it reached a fever pitch, which will apparently culminate in a final decision in the next few days (per NFL Insider Michael Lombardi). Many teams have been mentioned as potential suitors; depending on which report is correct, numbers of interested teams have swelled to as many as ten (Jay Glazer). It makes sense, which franchise wouldn’t want to add a 3-time Pro Bowler to their roster? As of last week, the Miami Dolphins are supposed front-runners. According to Tony Pauline, other teams that have been connected to Clowney are the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.
However, there are two issues with each of these destinations. The first: the Texans would undoubtedly want a contributor at one of two positions — wide receiver or offensive line. While the Dolphins have Kenny Stills to dangle as trade bait, they don’t have a bevvy of offensive linemen to offer. The Seahawks aren’t rich in either area, and the Bills don’t exactly have a ton of star receivers. Problem the second: Clowney wants to play for a contender. Whichever team he does end up with, the end goal will be a long-term contract. The man has said he is much more likely to negotiate with a competitive team. Specifically, he has said before that he would not sign a contract with the Dolphins. While the Seahawks fit the ticket, it would be a tall task to convince the Pro Bowl defender that the Bills will be fighting for a championship any time soon.
Which team does have a wealth of offensive linemen, receivers and a rock-solid roster ready to compete? The Philadelphia Eagles. Therefore, it’s no wonder that their name has also been tied in with trade rumors. As of this moment, the Texan has yet to sign his franchise tag offer sheet. The deal would pay him $15.97M this season, which is somewhere in between the standard for a LB ($15.403M) and a DE ($17.128M). The Eagles currently sit at $18.709M below the cap, and have the room to spare. Nevertheless, just because they could acquire Clowney, does it mean that they should?
While he would presumably play under the tag for this upcoming season, Clowney is after a long-term deal on his new team. That doesn’t mean the Eagles have to oblige, but $16M and some assets for a one-year rental seems somewhat shortsighted. Still, it’s been a trend for the Eagles to take a one year flyer on a player reaching the end of their rookie contract. That is a real possibility here, but not the one we’re concerned with.
If the Eagles were to keep Clowney in Philadelphia, what would that mean for the team and its cap space. The star defensive end would assuredly ask to be among the highest-paid defensive ends in the league. Luckily, there are some similar contracts to contrast and compare.
This summer, the Dallas Cowboys shelled out a $105M/5-year deal ($21M/year) for Demarcus Lawrence; the Kansas City Chiefs inked Frank Clark to a $104/5-year contract ($20.8M/year) and the Detroit Lions signed Trey Flowers to a $90M/5-year deal ($18M/year). That does not include Khalil Mack’s record-setting six-year $141M contract ($23.5M/year) he signed last season. Following the trend of one-upmanship, it is more than likely that Clowney’s camp would like to set the market yet again. That means something in the area of $21M per year, possibly reaching the $24M mark. Keep in mind that he is younger than both Mack and Lawrence.
Using Lawrence, Clark and Mack’s contract as a point of reference, let’s look at what a potential deal for Clowney would mean for the Eagles over the next three years.
As of right now, the Eagles will have an estimated $7.9M in cap space for the 2020 season, including a $2.2M rollover from this year, and $14.4M in 2021. Even with Howie Roseman’s cap wizardry, it’s a tight fit. It would probably mean parting ways with some players, or renegotiating key contracts. Renegotiating or restructuring contracts have nearly endless possibilities, and the Birds could undoubtedly make some wiggle room by entering into negotiations with any one of their vets. However, creating more money this way means taxing later years. In a quest to find room for Clowney’s multiple-year contract, it’s not necessarily the best solution.
Instead, the Eagles would likely have to part ways with some of their own. Below are some of the candidates for cut or trade that the Eagles would have to consider to make room for a contract of that size. The numbers below are calculated using the Over the Cap Salary Cap Calculator. The Eagles would need to free up approximately $15-20M in 2020 and $10-15M in 2021.
|Cut/Trade Cap Space||2020||2021|
While it would be heartbreaking, saying goodbye to Alshon Jeffery to recoup $10M spending money next season makes sense. With J.J. Arcega-Whiteside waiting in the wings, it’s only a matter of time before the team moves on. Nigel Bradham is getting older, but the depth behind him is not nearly as dependable. Philadelphia has never placed a premium on linebackers, but the team also knows what it’s like to pay the price for a lack of depth at the position. The Eagles glossed over the position in the draft, but did add UDFA T.J. Edwards. If they were confident they could secure a young talent in the draft or through free agency, bidding adieu to Bradham might be a reasonable move.
Two names that have been linked to a possible trade for Clowney are Nelson Agholor and Jordan Mailata. Both play positions of need for the Texans. As you can see above, trading Mailata away would have a minimal impact on the Eagles cap space. Agholor is in the last year of his rookie contract and would have no effect on future cap room. If the Eagles were to keep the fourth-year receiver, however, a potential $20M+ contract would have adverse consequences on the prospects of him being re-signed. Either way, it seems as if welcoming Clowney into the mix would mean bidding farewell to Agholor.
Other notable names nearing the end of their respective contracts with Philadelphia are: Jason Peters, Rodney McLeod and Tim Jernigan. The backup QB duo of Nate Sudfeld and Josh McCown are also on their way out. It’s a possibility none of these players are with the team next year. It’s also unlikely the team re-signs Jordan Howard, Andrew Sendejo, Johnathan Cyprien or Vinny Curry, but will need to find money for their eventual replacements. So, shelling out money to Clowney could also mean losing depth at wide receiver, safety, linebacker, backup quarterback and along the defensive line.
All that considered, if the Eagles are to trade for Clowney, it likely would be for a good time, not a long one.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Wyke