The Houston Texans had a rather drama-filled offseason, and as the regular season draws near, that drama has not subsided. The focus now shifts to the ongoing holdout from Jadeveon Clowney, who was tagged on March 4 for 15 million, but has yet to sign the tag and report to the Texans’ camp. Clowney’s holdout is an ongoing distraction because players and coaches get at least one question a day about Jadeveon. It puts a cloud over a team that is trying to get prepped for the regular season. Here is the latest on the Clowney front, from the obstacles of a possible trade to a couple of solutions which could be good for both Clowney and the Texans organization.
1. The deadline for tagged players to sign new contracts has passed. Patrick Storm reports that a trade was in place to send Clowney to the Dolphins. Nothing came to fruition, and no trade was done; however, the Texans are still reportedly shopping Clowney.
The deadline to sign players who were franchise-tagged came and went on July 15. With the deadline having passed, making a trade now becomes more challenging. Other teams won’t give the Texans any draft capital or a player of a value for a guy who may only play for them for one season. Had Clowney been dealt during free agency or the draft, his new team could have rescinded the tag and signed him to a new deal. That’s why most of the trade talk has been just that: talk.
2. There is no GM to play mediator. the Texans fired GM Brian Gaine in the hope of pulling Nick Caserio out of New England. That backfired, leaving the Texans with a GM-by-committee, even though we all know Bill O’Brien is making the personnel decisions. The Clowney situation is why you want to have someone in the front office who could sit with Clowney and his representatives and discuss the team’s plans, as well as negotiate a solution which will make both the franchise and the player happy.
Instead the Texans have Bill O’Brien, a head coach with no negotiating experience, trying to negotiate a new deal while dealing with the other responsibilities the head coach has. Would keeping Gaine have brought a resolution to this situation? Perhaps not, but if the Texans had a GM in place, I sincerely believe we would not still be talking about this situation with the regular season on the horizon.
3. Teams really don’t value defensive players. Aside from the likes of Aaron Donald, JJ Watt, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and even Demarcus Lawrence, teams generally don’t back up the Brinks truck to defensive players. The players above are absolute studs who aren’t just disruptive, they have the capability to completely wreck an opposing offense’s day.
A prime examples of what I am talking about is the ending of the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Whether it was injuries or contract expirations, the Seahawks weren’t overly willing to go above and beyond to keep one of the most dominant defensive units in recent memory together. Then there’s the Chiefs, who, despite an already-poor defense, still let go of two of their best pass rushers in Justin Houston (signed with the Colts) and Dee Ford (traded to the 49ers). Lastly, the Jaguars, who spent big on defense prior to 2017, gave up two of the guys (Colvin and Gipson) who were a big reason the Jags had a dominant unit and reached the AFC title game that season. Funny enough, both are now with the Texans.
Clowney has shown since 2015 that, when healthy, he is a really good defensive player and a great right-hand man for Watt. But as good and disruptive as Clowney is, and as incredibly gifted physically as he is, I don’t believe Clowney is on the same level yet as the guys named above.
It is sad how teams don’t value some of their best defensive players, because they could be the reason a team makes it all the way to the Super Bowl; it is just that the NFL is an offense-driven league. Also, outside the generational talents like the guys named above, finding good defensive players is really not that tough if the team knows where to look and has done their homework.
4. The Texans face big decisions following 2019. Clowney is not the only premier Texan due for a new contract; Whitney Mercilus and Lamar Miller headline Houston’s free agent class. The Texans will also have to start thinking about a contract extension for their franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. This is the Texans’ first time having a superstar under center. Carson Wentz got a new deal, and Dak Prescott will be getting a new deal; so perhaps the Texans are wanting to see what the quarterback market will be, to know how much it will cost to retain Watson long-term.
Other big decisions the Texans could face after the 2019 season lie within the structure of the organization. Will they hire a GM or just stick to what they have now, if what they have now proves to work? Lastly, not to beat a dead horse, but if the Texans still don’t rise to the next level or bomb the 2019 season altogether, they could be in the market for a new head coach.
While the Texans have flubbed this situation, both sides could reconcile with these two solutions:
1. Bill O’Brien and Cal McNair have a private meeting with Clowney and his representatives to really get on the same page in regard to what the team wants to do, as well as what Clowney wants. Clowney wants to be paid what he feels is his value, while the team has other thoughts. Having a private face-to-face meeting could resolve any tension between both parties. Who knows? Maybe it will open dialogue to where Clowney wants to remain with the Texans through 2020 and beyond.
2. If an agreement cannot be made, Clowney should tell the Texans he has no intention of playing under the tag, and that if not dealt, he will not play this season. The reason Clowney should think of going the Le’Veon Bell route and sitting out the entire season is because we all know he doesn’t want to play on the one-year tag. Sitting out the season could hurt his free agent stock, but so could getting injured under a deal he was not even interested in playing on.
The Texans have not handled Clowney’s contract situation very well, but they need to find a way to make things right with one of their most productive players. There is not an ideal solution on how to end this standoff, but with the season looming, something’s got to give.