The Browns were in the running for Clowney a year ago, reportedly giving the former No. 1 overall pick the highest value on a one-year offer and a competitive multi-year deal. Clowney chose instead to sign with Tennesee on a one-year deal worth $13 million, which proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Browns. Clowney missed eight games with a knee injury, needing surgery to repair his left meniscus.
Clowney notched 19 tackles — four for a loss — and no sacks in the down year. Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com pitched that now might be the perfect time to pursue Clowney as he plots a bounce-back year.
“He’s still a premier edge defender who’s great against the run, and would likely have more sack production here opposite [Myles] Garrett,” Cabot wrote. “The Browns could get a player they really like at a bargain price this year.”
Clowney’s currently has a market value is $6.5 million per season, per Spotrac.
The Browns have the cap room and intentions to sign a big name in free agency – like Bud Dupree, Shaquil Barrett or Trey Hendrickson. However, Clowney would be an interesting budget pick-up, allowing them to take care of other holes on the defensive side of the ball.
Browns Already Making Moves on Defense
The Browns made their first big move on the defensive side of the ball on Tuesday, releasing veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The move saved the Browns $3 million in cap space, but also removed their No. 3 defensive end from the depth chart.
Clayborn had 12 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year and played a key role in the pass-rushing rotation with Garrett and Olivier Vernon both missing time.
The Browns have been open that the spot opposite of Garrett will be a focus in free agency, although general manager Andrew Berry provided his usual roundabout answer when asked about it.
“I think that it is great to have two bookends along the defensive line – very few teams do,” Berry told reporters this offseason. “I think there are a number of different configurations that can make us successful on the defensive line. We will look to add talent at that spot, no different than we would all across the defense and up and down the roster, but I would not necessarily get zeroed in there.”
Browns Pursued JJ Watt Before Cardinals Signing
Cleveland was in hot pursuit of JJ Watt before he signed with the Cardinals earlier this offseason, even being listed as the favorite for most of the process.
“I would not talk about any player that is on another roster, quite honestly. I would probably echo what I said over the last year that we like to explore anything,” Berry told reporters when asked about the Browns’ interest in Watt. “Anything that has a chance to improve the roster, we will weigh it and measure it based on other alternatives that are available to us or may be available to us. One thing I do know is that I think we will have plenty of opportunities to continue to improve the team over the next six to eight months.”
Despite his injury struggles recently, Watt was a prized target. He was the most double-teamed edge-rusher last season on a lowly 4-12 Texans squad but still managed five sacks. He had four sacks in eight games the year prior and 16 sacks in 2018 — the last time he made the Pro Bowl.
However — much like the Clowney situation last year — it might be a good thing in hindsight for the Browns that they didn’t overpay for Watt’s services.