News & Analysis

Jadeveon Clowney agrees to 1-year, $12M deal with the Tennessee Titans

The Jadeveon Clowney offseason saga of 2020 is finally over.

According to a report by ESPN's Diana Russini that was later confirmed by Adam Schefter, the former No. 1 overall pick is signing with the Tennessee Titans on a one-year deal worth a modest fee of around $12 million.

This is a far cry from the monster, market-leading contract he was expected to sign when free agency began back in March, but after his market proved to be significantly less fertile than he was expecting, it was the kind of contract he was inevitably going to end up signing and the best bet for him to take a second run at the deal he really wants next offseason.

For the Titans, it was a no-brainer once the asking price became this reasonable. Tennessee was one of the five teams PFF said should sign Clowney to this type of contract, and he'll make a significant impact for a team looking to make the playoffs again and perhaps go even further than they did in 2019.

There isn't much in the way of proven pass-rush production on the Tennessee defense. Cameron Wake and Jurrell Casey represent two of the team's three leaders in terms of total pressures from last season, and neither is back for the 2020 campaign. Former second-round pick Harold Landry III is the team's primary source of pressure, with 51 last season, but Landry's PFF pass-rushing grade has been heading in the wrong direction during his NFL career (59.4 to 57.8) and has yet to rate as even above average.

Clowney's market has been soft in part because he is not perceived as an elite pass-rusher — three sacks in all of 2019 not helping his image there — but he is markedly better in that area than anybody currently on the Titans defense. 

Though Clowney only had three sacks last season, he had 48 total pressures in the regular season along with 10 more in two playoff games. He has also earned a PFF pass-rush grade above 70.0 for four straight seasons.

The reason for the discrepancy between pass-rush grade and pressure or sack stats is because PFF grades measure the quality of the pressure or sack, as not all pressures by a defender are created equal. Unblocked or cleanup plays by a defender receive a smaller positive grade than clean wins against a blocker, and while Clowney may not tally as many total wins as he should, given his physical tools, he often wins decisively and is probably undersold by his relatively meager sack totals over his career.

That being said, Clowney has never developed into the kind of force he was expected to be dating back to high school. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, and at best, he has only ever flashed the justification for that, developing into more of a consistently good player than a great or transcendent one.

Clowney is a high-level run defender who can set the edge with the best of them and occasionally make monster plays against the run or as a pass-rusher.

Viewed through the lens of the player he was expected to become, or the one he could be given the tools he possesses, his current level of play feels like a disappointment, even a tease at what you should be getting. But analyzed instead in the context of a $12 million investment to secure a Pro Bowl talent to play in 2020 with the motivation to show he is worth so much more than that, the Titans have secured one of the moves of the offseason.

Once Clowney realized he wasn't going to get the contract he was chasing, accepting this kind of prove-it deal was the best move he could make. Now he just has to go out there and do exactly that.

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