Texans should pay Jadeveon Clowney as a defensive end

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The Texans could fight the anticipated grievance regarding Jadeveon Clowney‘s clunky dual-position franchise-tag designation of linebacker/outside linebacker. They could hire a retired coach who would expain to an arbitrator that outside linebackers in the 3-4 routinely put a hand in the dirt and rush the passer, which doesn’t make them defensive ends. They could force Clowney to jump through every imaginable hoop over a franchise-tender gap of $1.161 million.

They could. But they shouldn’t.

The Texans made Clowney the first overall pick in 2014. They paid him far less than they would have paid but for the rookie wage scale, a device that shrinks the compensation of all high-level rookies in the hopes of limiting the financial havoc wreaked by top-10 busts. They have declined to sign him to a long-term deal, making him play out every game of a five-year rookie contract, and now delaying his foray into free agency by at least one more year, via the franchise tag.

And now, after refusing to give Clowney the payday that he arbitrarily was denied for fear that he’d be a bust, the Texans are, relatively speaking, nickel-and-diming him over the question of whether a guy who was drafted as a defensive end was used as a defensive end in 2018.

A reader asked for Monday’s #PFTPM the question of whether Houston’s refusal to sign Clowney creates a locker-room problem. I don’t believe it does, because he was still the first overall pick in the draft, and he was paid accordingly (albeit far less than he would have been before 2011). It’s more problematic in the locker room when a guy like former Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye busts his ass to transform himself from undrafted free agent to solid contributor, and when he has to go elsewhere to get rewarded for it.

But this effort to play games over Clowney’s franchise tender could cause a problem in the locker room, with players wondering why the organization is both refusing to give him a long-term contract and declining to pay him like a guy who makes his living putting a hand in the dirt and chasing quarterbacks.

Maybe the Texans can direct executive V.P. of team development Jack Easterby to sweet talk the players into seeing it from the perspective of the organization, pointing out that Clowney will still be making nearly $16 million dollars. Still, the truth remains that the Texans have refused to give Clowney the contract that he has earned, and now they’re trying to keep him from getting paid in line with the position that, regardless of labels, anyone who follows football knows he played.

21 responses to “Texans should pay Jadeveon Clowney as a defensive end

  1. Here’s an idea I have that I always thought made situations like this more fair to the player. If a player on a 4 year or 5 year deal makes a pro-bowl within that time frame, their rookie contract is voided and they must renegotiate with first rights going to the team that owns their rookie contract. In that way, if a player is indeed not a bust, he must be paid and let’s face it, making a pro-bowl is a “meh” accomplishment these days but definitely means your are a competent to all-star player. It makes the situation were a player is clearly not a bust fair to the player, while awarding the team the same freedom to pass on players that are just not living up to their potential. It also adds in the beautiful little democratic process the pro bowl has to basically vote players into bigger new contracts.

  2. *to clarify, I meant this would only apply to the players slated rookie contract, nothing else. Also, I think it would be fair (possibly) if the player still had to play out the first two years of that rookie deal too.

  3. Was Lawrence Taylor a defensive end or an outside linebacker? Most people would say linebacker, one of the best of all time. Clowney plays a similar way as Taylor. I rest my case.

  4. “the truth remains that the Texans have refused to give Clowney the contract that he has earned”


    What has Clowney earned? He has missed over a full season (18 games) due to injury and he has never had double digit sacks. If JJ Watt wasn’t getting double teamed Clowneys production would be even less.

  5. Claiming that top-10 draft picks is ridiculously tonedeaf. Before the rookie wage scale, such players were so overpaid that teams actively avoided trading up, and #1 overall picks were seeing guaranteed money in contracts that were NFL-record-setting for ALL players. They were able to do so because they essentially got to hold teams hostage, as they had to sign their pick or else risk getting nothing out of it. PFT LIKES TO IGNORE THIS, BUT EVERY DOLLAR THAT WENT TO A ROOKIE WAS A DOLLAR FEWER AVAILABLE TO PAY TO A VETERAN. By FIXING rookie contracts (which are still very large in the top 10), more money was then available to use toward rewarding PROVEN NFL success. Please, stop trying to distort history…the period before the rookie wage scale was not that long ago, and I and many others remember how lousy it had become.

  6. They should, because he IS a DE.
    We all know it.
    But what will the GM-less Texans do?

  7. If he was able to stay healthy and a game changer then he’d be worth the money. Unfortunately he’s neither.

  8. The NFL sets the positional designations for franchise tag and 5th year options, not the teams.

  9. madczyk says:
    July 16, 2019 at 8:42 pm
    Here’s an idea I have that I always thought made situations like this more fair to the player. If a player on a 4 year or 5 year deal makes a pro-bowl within that time frame, their rookie contract is voided and they must renegotiate with first rights going to the team that owns their rookie contract.

    Still not fair to the rookie. Pro Bowls nowadays are popularity contests and not performance based.

  10. What would be FAIR is if a player could negotiate a contract free of false market manipulations such as the rookie wage scale. Just sayin’.

  11. I agree with the analysis, but I will raise the point that I do not think O’Brien actually wants Clowney that much. Whether he should or not value Clowney as a long term player is a separate discussion, but my guess is that he only wants to use him for the next year or so and draft a replacement. In his mind, if this theory is correct, O’Brien’s thinking probably looks something like this: If Clowney signs the tender, great, use him for this upcoming year; if not, no biggie, since they’re getting Caserio next year who will draft a replacement.

    If it were me, I’d have signed him to an extension (or tried) before this tag business began, if for no other reason than to get a cheaper price long term. Watt and Mercilus are both older than Clowney, and none of those three, Clowney included, have a clean medical sheet when it comes to prior injuries. So you either plan for a full rebuild in two years, or you keep them around to try and get a shot at a good postseason run in the next few seasons. Considering how much closer the Texans are to a viable postseason team than they are to a high draft pick, I’d think that it’d be prudent to keep that defense as strong as possible for the next two years.

    Tendering Clowney at a slightly lower pay-scale, especially when the difference is something the team can easily afford and Clowney spends more of his time as a DE than a LB, is just going to build up ill will and make a deal less likely. If nothing else, he at least can be traded after you convince him to sign the tender, if you or he wants out so badly. Not sure why they’d jeopardize the amount of future options they’d have for a relatively small difference in the tender.

  12. I stopped being a Texans fan because of the bush league tactics they use on their guys. Karma will see to it that this team will not with a Super Bowl until they cut this crap out…

  13. The problem with Clowney is he takes alot of plays off or only plays hard when J.J. isnt playing. Maybe he should get a small guaranteed contract with a large performance incentive package.

  14. First, a contract is a contract and should be honored. However, the problem as I see it lies in the wage pay structure. Incentives should be interjected for performance from the start and be part of an ongoing focus within the contract specifics. This would eliminate two things. First is the possibility of paying great money for an early round bust. Secondly structuring contract extensions in the same fashion so as NOT to compensate a player for what he accomplished in the past with no guarantee for performance in the future. You think the player’s union would like that?

  15. And instead of paying that money to veterans, plenty of owners are calling it profit.

  16. It’s the same thing. Up or down,the edge is the edge. If anything a LOLB and a LE has different responsibilities (especially with coverage for LOLB) but a RE and a ROLB are more or less the same thing. I’ve never seen a RE that couldn’t play ROLB for Bill Belichick while inversely I’ve never seen a ROLB leave NE and not be able to play RE.

    Willie McGinest, Andre Carter, Chandler Jones. Didn’t seem to matter how big or long they were they all got it done in similar but different ways. The guys that failed couldn’t play end or LB for anyone. The guys that made it could play either end or LB for anyone.

    An edge is an edge.

  17. Clowney is getting paid properly according to his availability and productivity.

  18. The Texans should be designating him at whatever position is better for the team. In this case, LB.

    Saving $1.161 million against the salary cap means signing another quality backup or two third string players.

    If the money didn’t count against the cap, I’d say yes they should pay him and keep one of their star players happy. Since it does, they should explain to him that he is still receiving a gigantic salary and the LB designation will allow him to help the team be better as a whole.

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