General manager Chris Ballard recently told reporters the Indianapolis Colts are “ready for a big-name free agent.”
Visions of Tom Brady, Drew Brees or maybe… Philip Rivers danced in the minds of Indianapolis Colts fans.
But what if Ballard´s big-name free agent plays on the other side of the ball?
— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 27, 2020
ESPN´s Josina Anderson reported Thursday,
“My understanding is the Colts and Giants are among the teams that could potentially have some interest in pending UFA Jadeveon Clowney, per sources.”
Anderson left considerable wiggle room in alluding to unnamed sources and that other teams also “could potentially be interested” in the Seahawks´ defensive end.
It is hard to imagine a team that wouldn´t be interested in an available 3-time Pro Bowl edge rusher.
But, scouting combine aside, late February is not a big NFL news season, and most sports outlets jumped on Anderson´s statement.
The #Giants and #Colts are among the teams that could potentially have interest in DE Jadeveon Clowney, per @JosinaAnderson. Clowney says he would like to return to Seattle but is also open to new opportunities if it comes to that point. The #Seahawks can't franchise tag him.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) February 27, 2020
Who are we to buck that trend?
Let´s join the crowd and run with the notion that Jadeveon Clowney could be a Colt in 2020.
Why Clowney to the Colts Makes Sense
Indianapolis´ defense ranked around the middle of the pack or lower in most categories last year.
They finished with the 15th-best sack total of 41.
While there are potential NFL-caliber edge rushers in this year´s draft, Clowney is a known commodity.
He would do more than upgrade one end of the line.
The presence of a Pro Bowler like Clowney helps the rest of the line play better, too.
With the news of Chris Jones being tagged by the Chiefs, Colts potentially showing interest in Jadeveon Clowney now makes sense.
Last season, Clowney only started 11 games & finished with 3 sacks, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries, and 31 combined tackles. Also 13 QB hits. https://t.co/EApNwlvw0R
— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) February 27, 2020
Clowney´s calling card is his pass-rushing ability.
But the Colts´strength last season, run-stopping, won´t suffer with him on the line either.
Signing Clowney can also help Ballard´s draft plan.
He could comfortably pass on a stud edge rusher at pick 13 if he already has Clowney.
Pulling the trigger on a quarterback or safety in the early rounds would be easier.
It is notable that Indianapolis has over $85 million in cap space.
That puts them among a handful of teams that can comfortably meet Clowney´s price tag.
Why Clowney Would Leave the Seahawks
Jadeveon Clowney makes no secret of his willingness to re-sign with Seattle.
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks make no secret they would like him to return.
Jadeveon Clowney Says He Would “Definitely” Like To Return To Seahawks, Could Have Interest From Colts & Giants pic.twitter.com/FlmdGHHOxa
— Major Sports Alerts (@sports___alerts) February 27, 2020
Clowney expressed a desire to play for a Super Bowl contender.
With six playoff appearances in seven years, Seattle qualifies.
But Clowney´s other desire is to set the market for free-agent pass rushers.
He is expected to fetch about $20 million per season from somebody.
If he wants to set a new standard, he has to beat the $23.5 million per year paid to Khalil Mack.
Seattle probably needs to be prepared to pay more than it refused to give Frank Clark ($20.8M per year/$62.305M in guarantees/$43.805M fully guaranteed at signing) if serious about keeping Jadeveon Clowney.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) February 26, 2020
That is well over half of Seattle´s cap space, which is why they won´t use their franchise tag this year.
Clowney won´t be a Seahawk in 2020 unless he gives the team a significant discount.
Is Clowney Worth the Price to Indianapolis?
Jadeveon Clowney has been a very good player throughout his career.
However, he never quite matched the expectations of an overall number one draft pick (2014-Houston).
This was the first season in four years Clowney did not make the Pro Bowl.
He missed three games with an abdominal injury and is coming off core surgery to correct it.
But he gives the Colts defense the star quality they lack.
Jadeveon Clowney had the 2nd best pressure rate of his career in 2019, despite getting doubled at the 3rd highest rate among EDGEs in the NFL and playing nearly half the season with a core injury.
Here's two minutes of him being the most physically imposing player on the field: pic.twitter.com/ZIsiCb4nEB
— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) January 15, 2020
And at age 27, he has some good seasons left in him.
He finished 2019 with 31 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 13 quarterback hits, and 47 pressures.
Clowney also had an interception he returned for a touchdown against the Cardinals.
Much of that happened while Clowney was hampered by his now-corrected core injury.
Jadeveon Clowney [2019 Season Ranks by Game]:
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 6, 2020
Playing in pain in the second half of the season, Clowney still ranked 11th among PFF´s qualifying edge rushers.
Especially if Ballard drafts the next franchise quarterback, Indianapolis can afford Clowney.
Even a $24 million dollar contract won´t impede Ballard from filling the Colts´ other roster needs, too.
Clowney is worth the price tag to the Colts.
What Are the Chances Clowney is a Colt in 2020?
Until the Colts settle their quarterback situation, they might have trouble convincing Clowney they are a contender.
Drafting a franchise quarterback might not be enough to convince the free agent.
Fortunately, most of the other teams rumored to be interested in Clowney are in the same boat.
Jadeveon Clowney to the colts 🤞🏾🤞🏾. Speaking it into existence
— kirk (@dkirk122) February 27, 2020
The only exception is the Baltimore Ravens.
To sign Clowney, however, the Ravens will have to convince him to backload his contract.
Baltimore will have over $100 million in cap space in 2021, but only $25 million for this season.
The New York Giants have as much cap space as the Colts.
But they enter 2020 with an unproven head coach, a shaky quarterback, and a defense in need of a rebuild.
Likewise, the Bengals and Raiders will probably have new passers before opening day.
Indianapolis´ proven offensive line, running game, and Frank Reich might give the Colts an edge over the others.
Especially if Ballard and Jim Irsay are willing to pay Clowney´s price.