Should The Seahawks Go All In On Clowney?

The Seahawks are in the Top 10 teams with the most money available to spend in free agency in 2020. We’re also coming off of a semi-deep playoff run, with a franchise quarterback and a front office set-up that’s the envy of most in the league. Paired with a whole mess of draft picks, you’d be hard-pressed to find many teams in a better position to improve from 2019 to 2020. Could this be the year we go back to the Super Bowl?

A lot of that will depend on what happens in free agency. As I wrote about HERE and HERE, there are a lot of players whose contracts are up. The most important of them are along the offensive and defensive lines. So, while the Seahawks have a lot of money to play around with, they’ll have to use a significant portion of it if they’d like to keep some of the better players around. The biggest money guys on offense are Ifedi and Fant; I don’t know if we can afford to lose them both, as that would put us in a situation where we might have to (or want to) replace 4 of our 5 O-Linemen. The Seahawks likely won’t keep both Ifedi and Fant, but keeping just one around will require a significant chunk of change.

Defensively, the big money guys are Jarran Reed and Jadeveon Clowney. The Seahawks very well MIGHT want to keep both of these guys, which would take most of the rest of our available salary cap resources. Considering how poor the Seahawks’ defensive line was in 2019, and that performance largely included both of those guys playing significant snaps when healthy & active, is it smart to give these two a lot of money?

I’m mostly focused on Clowney in this instance. I think if we want to extend Reed long term, we’d be entitled to something of a discount considering his suspension and his lackluster performance in the games following his suspension. Either a 1-year prove-it deal, or a multi-year deal at a lower average than we anticipated following his 10.5-sack 2018.

Clowney, on the other hand, will be looking for top-of-the-market defensive player money. Anywhere from $20-$25 million per year on average. Even with the pro-rated signing bonus, that won’t make for a necessarily cheap first year cap hit.

So, I pose the question: pay Clowney what he’s looking for, or not?

Paying Clowney would put the Seahawks with three players making money at or near the top of their respective markets, including Russell Wilson at the most expensive position in football (the other is obviously Bobby Wagner).

It’s hard to answer this question without knowing the full plan. Are the Seahawks going to pump a bunch of dollars back into the O-Line? I think they absolutely should, as I’m not ready for the likes of Pocic, Haynes, and Jones to take over full time (I also wouldn’t mind an upgrade over Fluker, if I’m being honest). Are they going to make a splashy trade or signing for a wide receiver or tight end that will set us back in the cap? I hope and pray that they don’t; we should be able to get by with who we have, and let Russell Wilson take on the burden of making those around him better.

I would obviously love to have Clowney back, as I do believe he’s one of the five or ten best overall defensive ends in football. I base this not on his sack numbers, but his overall presence on the field, the pressure he’s able to generate on his own, and what he’s able to do in slowing down the opponent’s run game. Also, not for nothing, but the Seahawks don’t have anyone else remotely CLOSE to what Clowney can do on a football field in how he can wreck games; and I don’t believe there’s anyone in the free agent market that can approach his level of production either.

But, as I said before, the Seahawks need a lot of help along the D-Line. If it comes down to signing Clowney, or signing 2-3 mid-level defensive linemen, I think I’d rather have the volume of players. 3 competent linemen who are able to do a little bit of everything is preferable to 1 outstanding lineman and 2 duds who can’t do anything.

The problem, as I see it, is the fact that most every team in football can say the exact same thing. Lots of teams need defensive line help; lots of teams have money to spend on free agents.

Everyone always points to the Seahawks signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett before the 2013 season as the gold standard, as if those types of players grow on trees. The Seahawks were in a unique position that year to take advantage of market inefficiencies; that’s a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of factors that we pretty much lucked into. Most every other season, you run into what we have this year: older veterans on the cusp of falling off a cliff, or younger guys who have yet to prove they can do the job for a full season.

The X-factor in this whole thing is whatever potential trade market is out there. Who are the players entering the final year of their rookie deals? The players who get Franchise Tagged and aren’t particularly happy about it? We won’t know the answer to that for another few weeks, but could the Seahawks find themselves in another Clowney situation in 2020? I wouldn’t throw that option out of bed.

I think my biggest worry is Clowney’s durability. He’s suffered a bevy of injuries throughout his college and pro career. Giving that kind of money to one man puts a lot of risk on your plate; if he doesn’t live up to the contract – because of injuries, declining ability, or a lack of want-to – then you’ve effectively screwed yourself in the short and long term. If signing Clowney means we can’t afford to put the type of players around him to make this whole thing better than it was in 2019, then not only do we need him active for the full 16-game season, but we need him absolutely destroying fools on an every-game basis if we want to reach our objectives:

  • Winning the NFC West
  • Getting a first-round BYE
  • Making the Super Bowl

That’s all I care about. I want the Seahawks to do whatever gets us back to the mountain top. If that includes Clowney, then I hope it includes enough complementary pieces around him to enhance his abilities, and I certainly hope it includes the right guys to keep Russell Wilson upright and contending for MVPs.