It has been a relatively quiet offseason for the NFL, which comes as a real pleasure for everyone, but that’s just about ended. For folks thirsty for football-adjacent events, we’re less than a week out from the start of training camps, and just hours away from the deadline for players slapped with the franchise tag to sign long-term deals. Among those stars not expected to get a deal done by the deadline is Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney, upset by the franchise tag and by the Texans’ unwillingness to even talk seriously about a contract extension, has already skipped OTAs and minicamp, and per this ESPN report, he’s expected to miss most or all of training camp and preseason. While there have been no indications that Clowney is willing to hold out into the regular season, he can’t be happy that he’s entering his sixth season—the last three of them relatively healthy, and monstrously effective—without ever getting a chance to exercise his free agency.
That may change next offseason. A PFT report claimed that head coach Bill O’Brien and former GM Brian Gaine disagreed on Clowney, with Gaine wanting to sign him long-term and O’Brien preferring to use the franchise tag. Gaine was shockingly fired in June, and while the Texans’ GM search has been a disaster for other reasons, they will apparently go without a GM this season, leaving O’Brien in charge of personnel stuff. That also means he gets his away on refusing to negotiate with Clowney, and after today’s 4 p.m. deadline, the two sides are only allowed to talk a one-year deal.
While the franchise tag is most notable for delaying and denying players in their primes the ability to get a long-term deal, the Texans are stiffing Clowney even more than they need to. Houston tagged Clowney as a linebacker instead of as a defensive end, even though last year he played 729 snaps at DE and just 33 at LB, according to ESPN. Because the tag is tied to positional salaries around the league, Houston will pay Clowney over a million dollars less than if they had tagged him as a DE.
Under the tag, Clowney will earn $15.967 million in 2019. After that, the Texans could finally come to the table and talk a long-term deal. But given that O’Brien is against a long-term contract, it seems more likely they could tag him a second time, which carries a 20 percent raise, and risk an actual holdout in 2020, or trade him or let him walk. No matter what happens, it’s a bummer that one of the league’s scariest pass rushers won’t get to earn his market value until his late 20s.