CLEVELAND, Ohio – Jadeveon Clowney is coming back to Cleveland for a second visit. The draft is looming at the end of the month. Browns fans have lots of questions:
Hey, Terry: Does is make sense to sign Jadeveon Clowney to an incentive-laden contract (one or two years) to keep him motivated? He’s only 28 and a 3-time Pro Bowler. – Tim O’Hara, Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Hey, Terry: I’m not sure Clowney is the right guy? Why waste the money? Any chance of moving up in the draft to improve the defense? – Dick Powers, Stow.
Hey, Terry: Do you see adding Clowney as a positive or negative or a wash compared to last year’s talent? – Clint Ackerman, Louisville, Kentucky.
Hey Tim, Dick & Clint: Many others asked similar questions about Clowney, the free-agent defensive end who is coming to town this week to talk to the Browns yet again. Let’s break it down:
1. I’m not a big fan of this for the same reason I wasn’t excited about the possibility of the Browns signing J.J. Watt. Durability is an issue. He’s what I consider an “old” 28 because of his injuries and knee surgeries. He played only eight games last season with zero sacks and a surgery.
2. To be fair to Clowney, he missed only nine games over the previous five years (2015-19), so perhaps I’m being too hard on him. He had major knee surgery as a rookie.
3. Clowney’s best seasons were 2017-18 when he had 18.5 sacks in 31 games for Houston. He was playing on the other side of the Houston defensive line from J.J. Watt. The idea would be for Clowney and Myles Garrett to create that kind of power for the Browns.
4. The question about needing to add things to the contract to “motivate” Clowney would be a bad sign. He will probably sign only a one-year deal, unless the Browns can secure a team friendly option for 2022. The chance to go back on the market a year from now and play for a good team should be motivation enough.
5. Clowney is Andrew Berry’s guy. The GM tried to sign him a year ago. When that fell apart, he turned to Olivier Vernon and reworked the veteran’s contract.
6. I wasn’t very excited with bringing Vernon back because he missed 15 of 48 games between 2017-19. Berry believed the Browns could squeeze at least 12 productive games out of Vernon. He bet on the man’s character and work ethic. It paid off as Vernon played 14 games. He had nine sacks and was finishing strong when he blew out his Achilles in the final regular season game.
7. The Achilles injury is major and that’s why the Browns aren’t bringing Vernon back. He hasn’t signed elsewhere. Berry was right on Vernon, perhaps he will be the same with Clowney. Analytics loves Clowney as an all-around defensive end, stronger against the run than as a pass rusher.
8. Clowney’s agent is no longer Bus Cook, who negotiated the mega-deal for Myles Garrett last summer. Cook was dismissed in September and replaced by Kennard McGuire.
Hey, Terry: If the Browns sign Clowney, what positions do you think they will prioritize in the draft? – Terry Ramey, Burlington, N.C.
Hey, Terry: You have a great first name! I don’t think Clowney impacts the draft at all. Assuming he signs, it probably will be a one-year deal. At No. 26, there will be no prime pass rushers available.
The Browns will have free agent signee Takk McKinley and Clowney to anchor the end position across from Garrett. They also have Porter Gustin, who showed some promise. They could draft a defensive end in the lower rounds as a developmental player. The Browns also have Boise State product Curtis Weaver. He is talented, but raw.
Hey, Terry: Do you see the Browns using all nine of their picks in the draft? If you were the GM, what positions would you make a priority? – Damon Hinty, Columbus.
Hey, Damon: I don’t think they’ll draft nine players. I see them using some picks to to move up, perhaps in the middle rounds. Or they could trade some lower picks for draft picks in the next few years.
I want another safety. The Browns made safety John Johnson III as their prime free agent signing. They have Ronnie Harrison Jr. and Grant Delpit coming back. So that’s three, assuming Delpit fully recovers from his Achilles injury of last August. Harrison missed five games with various injuries.
They also have Sheldrick Redwine and Elijah Benton, who they like to an extent. But this is a defense that prefers to play safeties over linebackers.
A guy to watch in the draft for the Browns is Richie Grant. The safety from Central Florida looked so impressive in 1-on-1 coverage drills at the Senior Bowl, scouts also see him as a guy who can cover slot receivers.
Hey, Terry: Will the Browns go for a linebacker in the draft if they sign Clowney? – Stan Kocienski, Parma.
Hey, Terry: Will the Browns take a linebacker at No. 26? We’ve been getting killed by tight ends for years. We need an impact linebacker with speed. – Sean Krause, Akron
Hey Stan & Sean: Here is how the Browns and other NFL executives have explained it to me. Linebackers now have to be more like safeties. The accent is on speed and coverage. That’s why some teams are just playing three safeties. The Browns are one of those. Good tight ends now are so athletic, the traditional linebackers can’t cover them. It’s why I see them taking defensive backs high in the draft, not a linebacker.
And Stan, I lived the first 12 years of my life in Parma … Westminister Drive. My mother worked at Parmatown Lanes and later CCC-West. I went to Holy Family through the sixth grade.
Hey, Terry: What are the chances the Odell Beckham Jr. trade rumors are real this time? What kind of return do you think is reasonable? – Rob Jacob, Kent,
Hey, Terry: Do you see OBJ being traded? He is too talented and can help. – Chuck Ciapala, Warren.
Hey Rob & Chuck: There are always OBJ questions and OBJ rumors. If I wanted to pile up internet hits, I could write about OBJ every week. It’s why he is such a popular media subject. He is coming off major ACL knee surgery. He has missed 42 percent of the games in the last four seasons.
Durability is an issue. He also had leg surgery when with the Giants. It’s hard to see a major trade offer for him. My guess is the Browns will keep him and see how he looks in training camp. His recovery from surgery is supposed to be going well. My question is not if he can return to health, but can he stay healthy? It’s what other teams wonder, too.
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