The franchise tag period had been surprisingly quiet prior to Monday night. With the franchise tag deadline today (March 5th) it was just a matter of time until players started getting tagged. The first player to receive the tag was the 49ers Robbie Gould, but Jadeveon Clowney’s “tagging” on Monday was the big headline maker.
What Does it Mean?
Firstly Clowney has been tagged with the non-exclusive franchise tag. Therefore, he is allowed to negotiate with other teams in the upcoming free agency window. However, the Texans will have right of refusal on any deal that Clowney is offered.
If Clowney does not accept another contract offer then he will essentially have a one year contract with the Texans. Of course there is always a chance he chooses not to sign the tender and refuses to report the same way Le’Veon Bell did in 2018. That is unlikely to be the case in this situation but it is worth mentioning. Another unlikely situation is that the Texans could decide to rescind the tag before Clowney signs it. That has happened before with Josh Norman in Carolina, but is generally rare.
Linebacker or Defensive End
Clowney’s salary is a little bit up in the air because his positional designation is not straight forward. The Texans list Clowney as a linebacker/defensive end on their website. The difference between being tagged as a defensive end ($17.128 million) and a linebacker ($15.443 million) is a touch under $2 million. This has been an issue before when it came to setting Clowney’s fifth year option price for 2018. His official salary was at the lower linebacker level, but the Texans paid him a $1 million bonus at the end of the season to make up the difference.
A Long-Term Deal?
The franchise tag is essentially just a protective move from the Texans. They still want to work out a long-term contract, but if they had not tagged him they would have risked him leaving in free agency. In addition, by giving him the non-exclusive tag they allow Clowney to go out and see what the market has to offer. If he does get other offers then the Texans have a starting point for their negotiations.
Does his Play Deserve It?
Clowney’s numbers from 2018 will not blow you away in the way Aaron Donald’s or his team mate J.J. Watt’s will. Clowney ranked 24th in the NFL in sacks last year with nine and averages 0.67 sacks per game over his last four seasons. Over his full career he has forced just four fumbles and defenced just 11 passes. He did rank joint 15th in QB hits last season, and has back to back years with 21 hits. However, in general the actual results do not seem that impressive.
What resigning Clowney does is ensure that teams cannot just focus all their attention on Watt. The Texans have had a two headed monster when it comes to rushing the passer and that means a lot. The attention those two receive also allows their other defensive linemen and linebackers to make plays and that value is huge.
If the Texans were a complete team everywhere else they may have been tempted to let Clowney walk. However, there are a few elements that make signing Clowney very low risk. Firstly, they have plenty of salary cap room, so it makes sense to use that to keep your own #1 overall pick from five years ago in house. Secondly, they cannot really afford to spend must draft capital on defence this year. Their offence needs a lot of pieces, especially on the offensive line. If they were going to spend on defence it would also likely be in their secondary.
Therefore, tagging Clowney and looking to work out along term deal was likely a straight forward decision for the Texans, and one they feel certain will provide solid results. The use of the franchise tag is just a means to hopefully keeping Clowney in Houston for a number of years.