Raiders Shouldn’t Write Off Clowney

Can you ever really have too many pass rushers? 

No, not when you’re the Vegas Raiders fresh off a season where they ranked 24th in sacks a year ago. Not when only one Mad Maxx registered ten sacks a year ago. His best counterpart, Benson Mayowa finished with seven sacks and returned to Seattle earlier this offseason. 

Nonetheless, the Silver and Black maintain they do not want Clowney. This could be misdirection but the Raiders would be making a mistake not considering Clowney at all this late in free agency. 

The Fit

The team did well signing Carl Nassib but they passed on signing or drafting additional help. That help will come via Clelin Ferrell’s growth in year two combined with jumps from Arden Key in year three and more consistency out of P.J. Hall in year three. A jump out of Mo Hurst doesn’t hurt either in the interior. 

Vegas giving Clowney reps that could go to these developing talents might not be worth it considering the price tag. However, putting Clowney into the Raiders d-line rotation would help those guys by giving everyone more one-on-one matchups. The Raiders could slide Ferrell or Nassib inside while Clowney is on the edge for pass rushing downs or vice versa. 

Las Vegas peaced out Josh Mauro and Mayowa too so there are roles up for grabs even with Nassib on the roster. 

Clowney’s Market

The Seahawks were interested in re-signing Clowney but they appear to be too far from agreeing on a deal. The Titans and Eagles are among other teams still interested. HIs value ranges from $16-20 million per season. Clowney made $15 million last year via the franchise tag after his rookie deal expired and the Texans sent him to Seattle..

That’s a lot of money for someone who never registered more than ten sacks in one season. He finished last year with only three sacks but only played 13 games and 57 percent of the Seahawks defensive stats since they have a deep rotation. Clowney is a traditional base end with experience and athleticism to play as a stand up rusher. 

He’s actually a perfect fit in Seattle which makes his last year head scratching except when you remember he was thrusted into a new scheme late into the start of the season. They also gave up a couple of fringe starters and a third-round pick for Clowney last year which was considered a steal at the team. 

Still, Clowney is only 27. He’s battled injuries but is still a unique athlete and great run defender. It was only a six years ago he was the top talent in the draft selected over Khalil Mack. Not to mention, he’s a brand name on the edge for a team moving to a brand new market. 

The Price Tag

Again, the price to get Clowney won’t be cheap. The Raiders currently have about $8 million in cap space. They can create the money to get Clowney by moving Gabe Jackson. Cutting Jackson isn’t easy since he’s been the team’s starter for six years but they just drafted John Simpson and Denzelle Good played well while Jackson was hurt. 

Vegas can create even more room by moving on from smaller deals like Key, Hall (who they were shopping at the draft), Zay Jones, Nick Harris, Nicholas Morrow and others who are fighting for roster spots. However, they could also use this cap space to add another starting corner or defensive tackle. 

Reality Check

Either way, Clowney might need to take less money. About half the league has more than $16 million in cap space and could pay his bill in theory. Yet, he’s still not signed and could be headed for a long wait especially with COVID-19. However, if his price drops closer to $10 million the Raiders should make that happen. 

For comparison sake, look at ZIggy Ansah who also had a down season in 2018 when he played on the franchise tag. Ansah only registered four sacks with Detroit despite that large price tag. Last offseason, the Seahawks signed Ansah for only one year and about $9 million. Ansah only finished with 2.5 sacks playing alongside Clowney and a deep rotation. 

The difference is, Ansah is a few years older than Clowney and not the same generational athlete. On the other hand, Ziggy does offer two double-digit sack seasons which is more than Clowney’s career.

The Rest of the Market

It also hurts Clowney’s price tag that other veteran pass rushers like Ansah and Everson Griffen are still available on the open market. Moreover, Yet, Clowney’s got more long-term upside than others still looking for a team. 

Alternatively, the Raiders could boost their pass rush in the trade market. Well, there aren’t a lot of rumors around Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins that could change. Both players are off a season due to injuries, remnants from an old regime, carry more than $10 million in salary and are north of thirty so either player should be available on the low. Consider the Broncos got Jurrell Casey for only a seventh round pick and he had five sacks last year.

The point is, the Raiders can still afford to upgrade their pass rush and writing off Clowney or any one else is a mistake. Remember, it was only a few weeks ago there were rumors about the team trading a high pick for Yannick Ngokue who has more sacks than Clowney with less seasons. The difference maker is Vegas can sign Clowney without giving up a pick like if they traded for Ngokue. Further, signing Clowney keeps him from going to another AFC team the Raiders might be battling for playoff position in 2020. 

Never Say Never

Ultimately, the Raiders might be playing coy with their interest in Clowney until his price tag goes down. If Clowney’s bill comes down, the Raiders would be smart to sign him. Writing him off at this point of free agency doesn’t seem wise given the team still needs pass rush. 

Regardless, the Raiders should still consider adding a pass rusher of Clowney’s caliber. Every year we talk about how they should splurge on a rusher or send a pick to get someone but maybe this is finally the offseason. The added pass rush from Clowney will only help this young team as they ascend in a new market. 

I’d never write-off talent and the Raiders shouldn’t either, especially if there’s one like Clowney available this late in Free Agency.