In his first public comments since the end of last season, free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said in an interview with FOX 26 Houston TV Tuesday night he has not ruled out that he could still return to the Seahawks.
“I hope we can work something out if anything happens,” Clowney said. “I did like it up there. I love Russ (Russell Wilson). I love all the guys I played with. J. Reed (Jarran Reed), B. Jack (Branden Jackson), all them boys in my (defensive) room. I respect them guys.”
And just in case that point wasn’t heard clearly enough, Clowney also said, “I love Seattle. … I love everyone on the coaching staff.”
But what Clowney undoubtedly wanted to get across more in his interview is that he’s healthy.
The interview was conducted at a gym in Houston — with lots of shots of him going through different exercises — that Clowney said he has been attending for the last two months since having surgery following the season to repair a core/sports hernia injury.
He suffered that injury during his best game as a Seahawk, an overtime win over the 49ers on Nov. 11 in which he returned a fumble for a touchdown and generally wreaked havoc on a team that ended up in the Super Bowl.
“I just want to let people know I’m ready,” Clowney said.
Questions about his health — the core surgery as well as his microfracture knee surgery in 2014 — have undoubtedly played a significant role in the fact that he remains unsigned almost seven weeks since the free agency period opened on March 18.
His situation was further complicated because he could not make visits with teams and take physicals because of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on travel.
Clowney said in the interview that he doesn’t doubt that his health has impacted his free-agent process, saying “it might have a little more than I expected.”
But Clowney vowed his health won’t be an issue next season saying, “Whoever I sign with is going to get the best version of me.”
And while Clowney says he’s open to returning to Seattle, the Seahawks have likewise publicly left the door open for a return by Clowney at every turn.
GM John Schneider said in several interviews last week with local radio stations and following the draft that the door was not closed on Clowney to come back for a second season in Seattle.
He said so again in an interview Wednesday with longtime CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore.
“He knows the door is not closed,” Schneider said.
But Schneider reiterated a few points he has made before — that the Seahawks initially made what he called Wednesday “a strong pitch” to get Clowney, but then set a date when the team had to move on and “kind of go about our business and build our team.” That included the signings of free agent ends Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin and drafting of Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
Clowney told FOX26 that “I’ve got a few” offers but otherwise didn’t go into detail about which teams may have offered what. However, Mark Berman of FOX26 reported that sources say the Browns, Ravens, Titans and Eagles have also expressed interest.
But Clowney confirmed what has been widely speculated — that he’s willing to wait things out until he can take some physicals.
“I know what’s going on in the world (with coronavirus),” he said. “It’s a slow process until teams can see me, and see what I got and can give me physicals and everything. So I ain’t in no rush. I’m just waiting on the right opportunity.”
How many teams will still be waiting, though, will be another question.
When Seattle shaved roughly $12 million off its salary cap following the draft with the release of Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker, some speculated the team was readying to sign Clowney. Time, though, has proven that was not the case, as do Clowney’s comments to FOX26.
The Seahawks are listed as having just over $21 million as of Wednesday by OvertheCap.com. But that number doesn’t include the contract of Irvin, which has yet to go through, as well as bonuses for draft picks and keeping money on hand for Injured Reserve, the practice squad and other such items.
Seattle’s top offer to Clowney is thought to have been in the $15-16 million a year range.
But Seattle likely doesn’t have anywhere close to the ability — or desire, given how it wants to operate its budget for the season — to make that kind of offer to Clowney now.
Schneider seemed to confirm that in his interview with La Canfora in which he mentioned that not only is cap space an issue but so is cash that is spent each year and “they work hand in hand.”
And Schneider reiterated a point he’s made before — that Seattle is always going to want to go into a regular season with some cap space (and cash) still available.
“We are just one of those teams that wants to be active throughout the season as well, so we try to budget accordingly,” Schneider said.
So yes, whatever Seattle may have been offering initially it likely cannot offer now.
While some in Seattle may have hoped initially the Seahawks could offer enough to prevent Clowney from going to free agency in first place, it’s obvious that hitting free agency had been his plan all along, as evidenced by him asking the team to agree not to place the franchise tag on him as a condition of the contract he signed following his trade from Houston the week before the 2019 season.
Clowney said that when the free agency period began in March he “was getting fed up with it. It was nerve-wracking.”
But he said he eventually realized he needed to only worry to “control what you control” and he seemed willing to be patient.
“I’m just waiting on the right opportunity and the right timing for me,” he said.
In his interview with La Canfora, Schneider seemed to confirm he expects Clowney to wait a while to do anything, saying that the unique nature of this offseason — which includes that for now, teams can only do offseason work virtually — may mean many remaining free agents might hold off on decisions until restrictions lift.
“It’s been such an odd offseason with all these free agents,” Schneider said. “… There’s not a ton of urgency, it doesn’t seem, at this point this year.”
As for Clowney, he hopes that at the least, his interview and shots of him moving around prove that his health isn’t an issue. What he also hopes is that it will kickstart the process a little bit, even if he also seems willing to wait things out.
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