Houston Texans defensive end Jadavean Clowney has 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons which is eight more than he had over his first three seasons and ties him for 19th overall in the NFL during that span. The three-time Pro Bowler also had the NFL’s third-best pass rush win rate in 2018, beating his block within 2.5 seconds of the snap 35 percent of the time.
Now that he’s blossomed into a league force, former No. 1 overall pick in 2014 wants the Texans to bless him with a long-term bag similar to the ones that Khali Mack ($23.5 million annually) and Aaron Donald ($22.5 million annually) hauled in. He’s willing to hold out to get it.
Football has been getting unprecedented paper thanks to a 44% increase in the NFL salary cap over the past five years triggered by a steady increase in the value of TV contracts. The six current richest NFL contracts—each worth at least $134 million—were all signed over the past 13 months, including three in a span of four days just ahead of the 2018 opener (Donald, Aaron Rodgers, and Mack).
Superstar Holdouts, Trade Demands All The Rave
In today’s NFL, when superstars stunt on management, they often get what they want in the end.
Mack, The former Defensive Player of the Year, got $141 million over six years after being traded to the Bears. It is the richest deal ever for a defensive player and includes $90 million in guaranteed money, which makes Mack the fourth-highest paid NFL player. Current endorsement partners are Nike, New Era, Mack Trucks, and Panini.
Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year held out of training camp for the second straight year, spurring the Rams to give him a six-year, $135 million extensions a week before the 2018 season kickoff. He received a $40 million signing bonus and $87 million guaranteed, setting records for a defensive player until Mack signed his pact.
As the franchise tag deadline looms, it’s clear that Clowney and the Texans won’t get a deal done by today’s 4 pm deadline for teams to sign franchise-tagged players to multi-year contracts.
“We Don’t Believe You, You Need More People”
Clowney is homegrown. He’s 26 years old and has recovered well from knee surgery early in his career. He plays a premium position as a pass rusher entering his prime. So what’s the holdup on the long-term commitment?
Reports say 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 fired in June, the Texans went with O’Brien’s hardball method.
To an outsider looking in, they would be fools to allow him to walk or trade him. But Houston is reportedly worried about Clowney’s “work ethic” and his motivation after receiving a big-time contract.
For now, he will probably play under the $15.9 million price tag, which increases 20 percent to about $20 million next season. Clowney could accept the tag, have a hell of a season and then play chicken next year as Von Miller did in 2016 when he forced Denver’s hand. Or Clowney could continue his current holdout and force the issue now.
Von Miller Changes The Game
Miller’s historical hold out marked another victory for players rights and evening out the imbalance between ownership and the product that makes ownership rich.
Miller held out for a long-term deal with the Denver Broncos and on Friday, he signed a record $114.5 million deal with the squad, making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.
Usually, when a superstar player was having negotiation problems with his team, he would be labeled a franchise player and receive a juicy payday for the season, with intention of renegotiating after the season or walking away from the team to sign a long-term deal elsewhere.
Besides the one-year salary, the team holds all of the power in this situation because they are getting another full season out of the player’s career, but the player has no security if he gets injured or suffers a career-ending mishap.
Miller, an outside linebacker and the MVP of Super Bowl 50, was initially offered a $14.1 million deal for 2016 if he agreed to be labeled as an exclusive franchise player.
He wasn’t having it. He decided to take his chances of changing the game. Denver refused to let Miller walk out of the door. The effects of this decision have immediately impacted the negotiations of other NFL players.
Clowney finds himself in a familiar position, although some would argue whether or not he ranks as high as Miller did as a defensive stopper at the time. Miller had all the leverage in the world. The Texans seem to be unsure about Clowney’s worth and he might have to keep bucking the system again to truly get the long-term security he and his family deserves.