The multi-year dalliance between Jadeveon Clowney and the Cleveland Browns has finally produced something tangible.
The Browns are signing Clowney to a one-year deal worth up to $10 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday. Cleveland later announced the move. The signing followed a passed physical for Clowney, whose 2020 season ended prematurely due to a knee injury.
The signing of Clowney brings a resolution to what has been a flirtation of sorts between the edge rusher and the Browns that dates back to last offseason. Cleveland was frequently mentioned as being in the running for Clowney in 2020, but ultimately couldn't strike an agreement with the free-agent defensive end, who ended up signing with the Titans.
The 2020 campaign spent in Tennessee proved to be a lost one for Clowney, who again hit the market with a significantly lower value in 2021.
After weeks of rumblings involving the Browns and Clowney, the two finally came to an agreement Wednesday.
According to Rapoport, the breakdown of the deal includes a $4.5 million signing bonus, $2.5 million base salary guaranteed, $1 million in 46-man roster bonuses, $2 million in incentives ($1 million in playtime and $1 million in sacks). It's a five-year deal that voids to one for cap. In all: one-year, $8 million base, up to $10 million.
"It meant a lot, man," Clowney said Wednesday of Cleveland's pursuit. "It means you're wanted by somebody. You can tell that [if] somebody really wants you, they're gonna use you the right way, so that was another big part of me making my decision. They wanted me and when you're wanted by somebody, you can't just turn it down like a relationship."
When the Browns hit the offseason following a heartbreaking Divisional Round loss to Kansas City, the No. 1 objective was obvious: Cleveland needed a better defense in 2021. The addition of Clowney is the latest in a series of moves made by general manager Andrew Berry to achieve such a goal, joining the likes of safety John Johnson, cornerback Troy Hill, linebacker Anthony Walker, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and defensive end Takkarist McKinley as new additions.
Clowney will pair with fellow former No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett as tandem edge rushers in Cleveland's 4-3 scheme, giving the Browns the scenario they imagined when they first pursued Clowney last offseason. It should also provide Cleveland with a defensive boost it sorely lacked in 2020, a season in which the Browns finished 21st in points allowed per game, yet still managed to finish 11-5 and record the franchise's first playoff win since the 1994 season.
"Them guys, they're hungry, I can tell you that, they're very hungry and they feel like they're on a winning team, too. So, that's why I jumped on board, trying to get on that winning team," Clowney said of his new team. "I don't think Cleveland is like people think they used to be so I'm looking forward to this season and playing with a great group of guys and getting after guys."
The biggest question mark with Clowney is, of course, his health, as he's struggled to remain available in four of his seven professional seasons due to various injuries. Clowney told reporters he feels he has something to prove in Cleveland because of his injury history.
"I just want to show that I'm still an elite player, more by proving myself than anything, to prove to other people I'm still out here and can dominate," Clowney said. "So, we're gonna see this season."
When fully available, Clowney has proven to be a difference-maker off the edge, reaching three straight Pro Bowls in Houston from 2016-2018 and giving the Seahawks a jolt defensively in 2019 in 13 games (11 starts). Clowney simply needs to be more consistent in both availability and productivity -- he went without a sack in eight games in Tennessee last season despite playing over 400 snaps -- in order to reach his full potential.
He'll get a good shot at doing so while playing on the same line as the double team-commanding Garrett this season.