Jadeveon Clowney is entering a contract year. And the Houston Texans intend to pay one of their prized assets.
The former number one overall pick is set to earn $12.3 million in base salary per spotrac.com, there is no doubt he will exceed that figure when he eventually pens a long-term deal. And nobody can say the shattering defensive end has not earned it.
General Manager Brian Gaine piled the praise on when speaking about the star defender in April.
“[I like his] height, weight, [and] speed,” the Texans GM told Sarah Barshop of ESPN. “The production, the performance, the pass-rush ability. The guy’s a disruptive player. He plays the run well. So we’re doing our best to fortify our nucleus of players, and we’d like him to be part of it.”
When selected first in 2014, expectations for the South Carolina stud were beyond high. Seen as a generational athlete, the type that could be a face of a franchise for years to come, Clowney was under fire early after turning in an injury riddled rookie campaign.
Houston lost their first overall selection for all but four games, in which he produced zero sacks and just five tackles.
Things picked up slightly for him in his sophomore year. Still nagged by some injuries, Clowney managed to register four and a half sacks and a forced fumble across 13 games, nine of them starts.
Injuries are out of a player’s control. Even prime examples of the modern athlete, see J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham, have found that out in recent times.
“I started off rough for me with the injuries and everything. But it’s starting to come along. I’m feeling better and better each year.” Clowney told Yahoo Sport in the 2017 offseason.
The word ‘bust’ was being used to brand the then 22-year-old after two underwhelming campaigns, and Clowney knew it, revealing in the same interview.
“I was in a situation where at one point I was being considered the biggest bust of all time,” he said. “It really gave me the edge I needed. In my head I was saying ‘I’m not healthy yet but I’m going to come back and show these guys.’”
Once fully healthy, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, hired in 2014 to get the best from defensive lineman, moulded Clowney into the superstar so many knew him capable of being, and in some cases, the superstar so many expected to see from day one.
That progress continued when the now Tennessee Titans Head Coach was promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2017 season, Clowney’s best as a pro.
In the last two seasons the Texans star has logged 15.5 sacks. The evidence is there to suggest the 25-year-old is going to get better. Since entering the league his year-on-year totals for: sacks, tackles and, critically, games played, have all gone up.
2017 represented the first time Clowney started all 16 games. In a year the Texans desperately needed him do to so. The the losses of Watt and Whitney Mercilus left the defense in need of a playmaker. Clowney stepped up, adding to his 2016 Second Team All-Pro selection with a second Pro Bowl nod.
Respect of his peers is another thing which has also stepped up. A move up from number 49 in 2017 to 32 after last season, the NFL Top 100 illustrated Clowney’s development in the eyes of his contemporaries.
The trajectory is pointing up. Clowney is one of the fastest rising stars in the league today. With J.J. Watt plagued by injuries for two seasons, it is perhaps fair to ask if the perennial All-Pro will have the same level of production. Regardless, the Texans brass can rest easy knowing they have a player opposite who can impact a game as decisively.
An enormous extension is looming. Clowney may eclipse the highest paid player at his position. If he is classed as an outside linebacker then he could leapfrog Von Miller, who inked a six-year $114 million contract in 2016.
From bust to brilliant, underwhelming to unstoppable, the 25-year-old has overcome rotten bad luck and heavy criticism to become one of the most feared defenders in the National Football League.
It is just a matter of when and not if Clowney gets his mega-deal, and he has earned every penny.