The best edge defender remaining on our free agent list is former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. While Clowney hasn’t proven to be a franchise cornerpiece as expected, he’s been a solid player throughout much of his NFL career.
Looking for his fifth team as he enters his 10th season in 2023, we’re breaking down where Clowney now fits best as free agency continues to progress. The 30-year-old is coming off a tough season in Cleveland, but he has value for the right team and price.
Jadeveon Clowney’s Best Free Agency Fits
Clowney is best suited as a complementary pass rusher next to a star. He’s a strong run defender who can play either standing up or with his hand in the dirt. Let’s take a look at his three best free agency fits.
Las Vegas Raiders Add Toughness With Clowney
Clowney’s 2022 season was nothing to write home about. He had only two sacks and 28 tackles in 12 games played, marking the third time in four years he was a relative non-factor in the stat sheet. However, a closer examination of his play showed value.
Ranking 61st in quarterback pressures and 19th in run stops, Clowney’s caliber of play shouldn’t be overly simplified. Though he was wrong to call out the Browns for favoring Myles Garrett in their scheme, Clowney lost some stats because he played with a more dominant player.
Clowney wasn’t significantly better in 2021 when he had nine sacks, but he was more fortunate with health and being in the right place to clean up sacks.
The Raiders, already with Maxx Crosby and an ineffective Chandler Jones, could use some insurance in case Jones is invisible in 2023 again. They allowed 99.1 yards per game to running backs, a below-average mark. A platoon of Jones and Clowney could help improve that number.
At worst, the Raiders would gain some flexibility and toughness with Clowney’s ability to play 3-technique as a defensive tackle on passing downs and as an edge on running plays.
Pittsburgh Steelers Use Clowney To Bolster Depth
Unlike Vegas, where Clowney would be on all fours in base formation, Pittsburgh can offer Clowney the chance to be a standup rusher. Pittsburgh has two stars in T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, and Alex Highsmith quietly broke out with 14.5 sacks last year, but they lack a fourth rotational option. They traded for Malik Reed prior to the start of last season, but he struggled to adjust and logged just one sack.
The Steelers have already shown interest in one of their former players “if he’s healthy,” Bud Dupree, after he was released by the Tennessee Titans. However, Dupree was outright bad with the Titans despite signing there on a massive contract after tearing his ACL in his final year with Pittsburgh.
Clowney, despite being nicked up throughout his career, is a safer bet. Staying familiar and comfortable can be a tempting disease. Instead, the Steelers should at least give Clowney a tryout and see if he’s more explosive than Dupree.
Arizona Cardinals Give Clowney Reclamation Opportunity
New Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis followed new head coach Jonathan Gannon from Philadelphia after working together for two seasons. The pair have a major undertaking with a weak Cardinals roster. One way they can balance trying to win and building a strong culture is to rely on veterans to work with their young players.
Rallis said it’s important to have players who are “high motor 24/7,” and despite criticisms about Clowney out of college that he took plays off, the reality is different. Clowney has often fought through injuries to be on the field, and that’s a toughness and mindset this young Cardinals roster could use.
Second-year defenders Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas could use a new mentor after J.J. Watt retired. While Clowney is looking to extend his career, he’s both a reclamation player who could provide both on- and off-field support to this new coaching staff.