Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney entered the league as the first overall pick in the draft four years ago. As he enters the option year of his rookie deal, he wants his second contract.
“He and I have been talking about it,” agent Bus Cook told Mark Berman of FOX26 in Houston. “He would like to get it done. It’s real important to him, so he can focus just on football. With [General Manager] Brian Gaine being there now, it’s achievable.”
That could be interpreted as an indication that former Texans G.M. Rick Smith wanted to force Clowney to play out his option year.
“He’s as good as anybody out there, better than most,” Cook added. “They would be well-advised to keep him around, sign him to a long-term deal.”
Clowney has definitely earned it. Seven years ago, the NFL implemented a strict rookie wage scale, aimed at ensuring that highly-drafted busts don’t suck millions out of the system without earning it. The problem is that the new system leaves it to the teams to decide whether to reward players who don’t become busts.
For Clowney, who has earned his second payday, it’s time for him to get it. (J.J. Watt got his after only three seasons.) And it should be easy to structure a Clowney deal. With $13.486 million due in 2018 and, at a minimum, a 20-percent raise to $16.1 million for 2019 under the franchise tag, Clowney should get at least $29.66 million fully guaranteed at signing to cover the first two years of the deal. With another $19.32 million for 2020 under a second tag, that’s nearly $50 million fully guaranteed at signing for Clowney, covering three years.
He may want — and deserve — more. But his leverage isn’t driven by the open market, since he’s at least three years away from it, if the Texans tag him only twice. (A third franchise tag would exceed $27 million for 2021.) The ultimate question is whether the long-term deal will simulate his next three years of expected compensation, or whether the Texans will overshoot it.
For Clowney, the only alternative is to take a year-to-year approach, making $13.486 million this year and then $16.1 million and then $19.32 million before becoming a free agent, seven years into his career and at the age of 28. If he’s willing to assume the injury risk, that could end up being the better approach — unless the Texans are willing to fully guarantee at least the value of the next three years before the start of the next one.