The first wave of 2023 NFL free agency signings has passed. While fans around the league are still recovering from their team’s transactions or lack thereof, there’s still a good pool of popular players left to be signed on both sides of the ball. One defender who will be looking for a new home is former Cleveland Browns DE Jadeveon Clowney.
While he is a well-known name, Clowney’s last season didn’t go well. He sits comfortably within our NFL Top 100 Free Agents at 33 but will likely join his fifth team in ten seasons. Where could Clowney head next for the 2023 season?
Jadeveon Clowney Free Agency Best Fits
Clowney will sign the fifth contract of his career this offseason. After playing out his rookie deal with the Houston Texans, Clowney hasn’t signed any deal longer than a one-year contract. He hasn’t sustained the level of performance necessary to command longer-term security.
Since being franchised tagged by the Texans in 2019 at $15 million, he’s signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans for $11.5 million guaranteed in 2020 and one with the Browns for $7 million guaranteed in 2021.
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After coming within a half-sack of his career-high during the 2021 season, the Browns signed him to another one-year deal for $9.25 million guaranteed.
Still, between the relationship souring at the end of the season and poor performance, Clowney is “95% sure [he] won’t be back” with the Browns in 2023.
The Chicago Bears Bring in Clowney To Bolster the Defense
The Chicago Bears had a rough season in 2022, but this move makes sense when you look at their roster. After receiving a haul from the Carolina Panthers for the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the team is building up in a hurry. WR DJ Moore gives QB Justin Fields a dynamic weapon, while the added picks will help the Bears move quickly through a rebuild.
However, a blind eye cannot be turned to the awful defense. Even with Fields doing incredible things each Sunday, the Bears’ defense let him down consistently. They sacked the opposing QB the least in the NFL and allowed the second most rushing yards per game (157.3). Clowney could help Chicago improve in both phases.
While not the most consistent pass rusher, when he finds his groove, he can be disruptive in the backfield, and he has been a solid defender against the rush his whole career.
With ample salary cap space, Chicago can more than afford to take a chance on Clowney, knowing that he should make an immediate impact on their rushing defense even if he doesn’t get substantial sack numbers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Steal a Divisional Edge Rusher in Clowney
What better way to stick it to the franchise you’re disgruntled with than by signing with a division rival? The 2022 season showed the Steelers’ defense’s dependence on LB T.J. Watt’s availability, so the team could use reinforcements on the edge.
Pittsburgh was 1-6 without its defensive star. While issues on the offense may be more to blame, the defense can’t be dependent on one player. Pittsburgh still needs a rotational piece to add to the pass rush, and Clowney can quickly fill that need.
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While Clowney felt the Browns gave him less favorable matchups, his role in Pittsburgh would be different. Watt, like Myles Garrett, demands multiple blockers, and the former’s value to Pittsburgh’s defense is almost immeasurable.
Clowney would benefit from favorable matchups while playing alongside Watt and emerging LB Alex Highsmith. Pittsburgh has shown interest in signing free agent help along the line, and Clowney should be able to take advantage of the situation on a one-year deal, which could be parlayed into something better next offseason.
Could the Baltimore Ravens Take a Chance on Clowney?
The Baltimore Ravens have made many changes this offseason within the coaching ranks. With a new offensive coordinator and defensive assistants, John Harbaugh is looking to get over the playoff hump and back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2013.
The Ravens have repeatedly brought in veteran pass rushers to pair with their copious emerging young talents.
Many names are being tied to Baltimore, but why not Clowney? He has the athleticism and explosiveness to be a disruptive force in the backfield and could finally find consistency when paired with newly hired LBs coach Chuck Smith.
When announcing the hire, Harbaugh explained that Smith “is a proven and highly-respected pass-rush coach…he’ll have a great impact on our outside linebacker group.”
Baltimore might be the perfect destination at which Clowney could find a firm, carved-out role while feeling like he’s being set up for success. The Ravens are always competing and building a solid roster, so a chance at a ring could also be a factor and entice Clowney to work out a deal.