Best-case scenario: It gives the Cleveland Browns bookend wrecking balls on their defensive line. Worst-case scenario: There is none, really. Cleveland on Wednesday signed free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to only a one-year contract.
Either it works out well for both parties, or it doesn’t. It’s just a one-year commitment, but that doesn’t lessen the excitement in Cleveland, where the Browns, for the first time in forever, have become a destination for NFL free agents.
Clowney signed a one-year deal with Cleveland worth up to $10 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Clowney will join a Browns defensive line anchored by All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft.
That should make it difficult for opposing teams to double team either defensive end, which may have been one reason Clowney was attracted to the Browns.
“It’s definitely frustrating. You game-plan all week to go against one person and you go into the game and all of a sudden there’s two people in front of you, and somebody chipping the whole game,” Clowney said. “They respect me on one hand, but it ain’t good for me to have all these guys in front of you (as you’re) trying to get to the quarterback.”
The Browns pursued Clowney last year, but he eventually signed with the Tennessee Titans for less money than the Browns offered. The Browns came calling again this year, and Clowney said it was an easy decision.
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“They win,” he said, when asked what appealed to him about Cleveland this year. “They’ve got a great team. They won 12 games last year. That’s more than the team I was on.”
At age 28, Clowney should be entering the prime of his career, but it’s a career that has been plagued by injuries, starting with his rookie season when a knee injury led to season-ending microfracture surgery.
Last year with the Titans, Clowney failed to register a sack in eight games, then had a season-ending knee injury that required surgery in December. He said he passed his physical with the Browns, and is looking forward to re-establishing himself as a defensive force in the NFL.
“I want to show that I can still be an elite player,” he said.
Clowney had just three sacks in 21 games over the last two years, and no sacks in eight games last year with the Titans.
The Browns will be Clowney’s fourth team in four years, following stints with Houston (2018), Seattle (2019) and Tennessee (2020). He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Texans from 2016-18, but he’s only played a full season once in his seven years in the NFL.
“I’m here to help out, do my job, and play hard,” he said. “Cleveland ain’t like it used to be. I’m looking forward to jumping on board. This is where I’m supposed to be this season.”
The Browns have spent most of the offseason trying to bolster their defense, and getting a healthy, productive bookend defensive end opposite Garrett would certainly help.
“Jadeveon’s had a very productive career since 2014,” said Browns general manager Andrew Berry in a press release. “We love his relentless style of play. He’s one of the more disruptive players in the game and we think he’s going to add an element of ruggedness along our defensive line and will pair nicely with many of the guys we have on the roster already. The other thing we love about Jadeveon is his versatility, his ability to play all across the front and impact the game regardless of his alignment.”
The Browns needed help on the defensive line. Olivier Vernon is a free agent, after rupturing his Achilles tendon on January 3, and Adrian Clayborn was a salary cap casualty.
“We’re excited to add Jadeveon to our defensive line,” coach Kevin Stefanski said in the release. “He’s a disruptive force that will help us against the run and the pass. We’ve been able to make some nice additions to our defense throughout free agency and we are looking forward to getting to work, so we can improve our team.”
The Browns have been busy during the free agent period trying to patch some holes in their defense. In addition to Clowney, they have also added free agent safety John Johnson (3-years, $33.7 million), cornerback Troy Hill (2-years, $9 million), defensive end Takkarist McKinley (1-year, $3.7 million), and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (1-year, $3 million). They also re-signed receiver Rashard Higgins, their own free agent, to a 1-year, $2.3 million contract.