The chatter around Jadeveon Clowney possibly swooping into the Eagles’ nest just won’t go away. It was mentioned in this space earlier this week as part of a package involving Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Now a new scenario with Lane Johnson serving as the major piece has been presented.
Paul Domowitch, a veteran NFL writer for The Inquirer, proposed a straight-up trade with the Texans: Johnson for Clowney. In a well-thought-out argument, and very much hypothetical, he lays out three reasons why it could make sense and three reasons why it wouldn’t make sense. The article is a fun, light read. Domowitch provides some valid points.
Among the positives are the facts that Johnson is already one of the best right tackles in football, at only 29 years old. The Eagles are also one of the only teams in the NFL with enough cap space to sustain Clowney’s $15.97 million franchise-tag hit. Lastly, the Texans have a glaring need for an offensive tackle, especially a left tackle. It’s not preposterous to think Houston couldn’t move Johnson over there. He’s done it before.
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Then, Domowitch drops this interesting nugget:
Coordinator Jim Schwartz has said many times that his defensive line is the engine that drives his defense. Well, by adding Clowney, the Eagles would arguably have the best pass-rush engine in the entire NFL. They’ve already got Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson inside. By teaming Clowney on the outside with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, the franchise’s 30-year-old sack record (62 in 1989) would be in serious jeopardy of falling this season, and a lot of quarterbacks on the Eagles schedule would start sweating bullets.
Dillard for Clowney Makes More Sense
From the Texans’ standpoint, the trade that makes more sense is a swap of rookie Andre Dillard for Jadeveon Clowney. It was reported Houston head coach Bill O’Brien had been targeting Dillard at No. 23, but the Eagles leap-frogged them and took the left tackle at No. 22.
Instead, the Texans drafted Tytus Howard in their spot in the hopes he could develop into a starting left tackle. He’s young and developing, but not NFL-ready yet. They will most likely start the season with veteran left tackle Matt Kalil. The injury-prone Kalil is coming off knee surgery and missed all of 2018.
Dillard showed he could be a franchise left tackle in the Eagles’ first preseason game, but regressed ever so slightly Thursday against Tennesee. He didn’t look bad, but Dillard was the one who allowed Dontae Jones to charge in unblocked and destroy Cody Kessler. The backup quarterback is in the concussion protocol. On second look, the play didn’t appear to be Dillard’s fault. Matt Pryor looked like he missed the right read.
Does Clowney Fit with the Eagles?
This is an easy question to answer: Yes. Emphatically yes. Scream it from the mountain tops. The Eagles need a fourth edge rusher to keep their defensive-end rotation fresh, especially with Derek Barnett coming off a torn rotator cuff injury. Remember, Vinny Curry was exiled to Tampa Bay last year and still adjusting to the nuances of the defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme (yes, he did play in this defense and won a Super Bowl in 2017.) Still, Clowney is arguably the best edge-rusher in the business. If he were to come in with his aggressive style, the Eagles would have no weaknesses.
Clowney has 29 sacks and 2015 tackles over the past five seasons, all in Houston. He received a reputation as an injury-prone player early in his career, but that’s not fair. The 26-year-old has actually started in 55 of a possible 62 games. He’s also coming off a career year, according to Pro Football Focus.