The Seattle Seahawks are not ruling out an eventual reunion with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, according to general manager John Schneider.
But in his first public comments about Clowney’s ongoing free agency, Schneider said Tuesday that the Seahawks had reached a point where they could no longer wait on him at the risk of losing out on other deals.
That point was right before Seattle agreed to a deal with another edge rusher, Benson Mayowa, on April 1.
“He came in, did a great job for us,” Schneider said of Clowney in a pre-draft video conference. “We made an effort to re-sign him. We’d still — the door is not closed, but we couldn’t wait any longer. We had to conduct business, and so he knew that. Everything was real cordial. He’s a great guy, represented by a great guy. I go all the way back to Brett Favre [in Green Bay] with his representative, Bus Cook. We’ve had great conversations.
“He just is going to kind of feel his way through this odd process, and we’ll see where that goes.”
Seattle acquired Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 by the Houston Texans, in a trade before the 2019 season. He became an unrestricted free agent last month for the first time in his NFL career.
A source told ESPN that Clowney was initially seeking a deal averaging $21 million per season when free agency began in mid-March. He dropped his asking price to around $17 million to $18 million per season earlier this month, according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that some around the league believe the Cleveland Browns got closer to a deal with Clowney than other suitors. Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson told reporters on the day of Russini’s report that the team had been in touch with Cook, Clowney’s agent.
Before signing Mayowa to a one-year, $3.05 million deal, the Seahawks brought back another one of their former edge rushers in Bruce Irvin, the team’s first-round pick in 2012. Mayowa entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Seattle the following season. Terms of Irvin’s deal aren’t known.
Irvin recorded a career-best 8.5 sacks last season in a starting role with the Carolina Panthers, and Mayowa set a career high with seven sacks as a rotational pass-rusher with the Raiders. Clowney had three sacks for Seattle, and no Seahawks defender had more than four, as the team finished the regular season with 28 sacks, tied for second fewest in the league.
L.J. Collier, last year’s 29th overall pick, is among the Seahawks’ young returning edge rushers. He contributed next to nothing last season and was a healthy scratch several times after missing most of training camp and the regular-season opener because of a sprained ankle.
Schneider said Irvin and Mayowa are players the Seahawks are “very comfortable with” and “confident in.”
“We’re excited about having those guys back,” Schneider said. “L.J. will have a year under his belt, and hopefully we can keep him healthy. He got hurt last year, and we thought we were going to lose him for the whole season that day he went down. It was very disappointing, but we were able to get him back at a certain time in the season that just wasn’t ideal from a developmental standpoint.
“So pass rush is always something we’re focused on. Obviously, we need to do a better job in that regard, and that’s from an acquisition standpoint, from a developmental standpoint and from a schematic standpoint.”
Although Clowney finished with only three sacks in 13 regular-season games, he consistently was Seattle’s most disruptive defensive lineman, and he scored two defensive touchdowns. He added 1.5 sacks in Seattle’s two playoff games.
Coach Pete Carroll acknowledged in the video conference that the NFL hasn’t allowed teams to bring in free agents for visits or oversee physicals amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has likely impacted Clowney. He had surgery for a core-muscle injury that bothered him for the second half of last season, and he has dealt with knee injuries in his career.
“We’ll see if Clowney comes back around or not. We don’t know,” Carroll said. “We’ll find out in time. Fortunately, it’s been handled really well, as John said. So there’s an ongoing to that, and we’ll see where he is when he’s ready to make a decision. Things have changed a little bit. Guys haven’t been able to travel around and get to places and visit and stuff like that, so there’s a number of guys that have kind of taken [the approach that], ‘I’m going to wait and see what happens, buy some time here.’ That’s kind of what it seems like JD has done.”