Should the Browns sign Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen?

Former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney remains a free agent. Photo by Mike Rosenstein

One of the shocks of the 2020 NFL offseason is that premier pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen remain unsigned, despite productive careers so far. Should the Browns make a move for either?

First, take a look at Clowney. It is a surprise that he has remained unsigned. This is likely because Clowney and his agent seek more money than teams are willing to pay. According to Dianna Russini of ESPN, teams aren’t willing to meet the figure that Clowney is seeking.

Cleveland has the most cap space in the league, currently, over $37 million and with Baker Mayfield still on his rookie deal, Kevin Stefanski’s team need to capitalize on their playoff window.

However, this situation is a little different with Griffen. The former Viking has been reportedly eager to visit teams in free agency According to The Athletic’s Chad Graff a situation which hasn’t been possible, with the country facing travel restrictions.

On paper, pairing either Griffen or Clowney with Myles Garrett would arguably give the Browns the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL. New Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods figures to expand on pieces with what is looking like a formidable defensive front with Oliver Vernon, Larry Ogunjobi, Sheldon Richardson and Adrian Clayborn among others on the Browns roster.

Adding Clowney, who has averaged one sack every two games in his career thus far, would bring instant credibility to a Browns defense that only got to the quarterback 38 times in 2019. His 80 career hits and 71 tackles for a loss would bring the Browns a toughness missing since Garrett played his most recent game, the infamous win over Pittsburgh in Week eleven last year.

Cleveland had the 30th ranked run defense in the NFL last season, and the addition of the South Carolina alum would go towards rectifying that. Clowney is viewed as one of the better run stoppers in the league, an underrated part of his game.

Griffen is equally effective against both the run and pass, having averaged over seven sacks a season and around 25 tackles a year. Needless to say both are incredibly effective when it comes to getting after the quarterback and signing either would alleviate the pressure on Garrett on the opposite edge. 

In addition, the arrival of a player with Griffen or Clowney’s pedigree would propel Cleveland’s already decent defense to a potential top ten unit. This would be a major achievement considering the Browns have not finished in the top ten in NFL defensive yards per game allowed in seven years.

Even if the former Seahawk Clowney didn’t have the best contract year statistically, collecting a mere three sacks and 31 tackles in eleven starts with the Seahawks. However, he’s just 27 years old, still a towering presence and alongside an elite rusher in Garrett would optimize his production.

Griffin’s 2019 stat line was much more productive than Clowney’s, with 26 tackles and eight sacks in fifteen games for the USC alum. Although Griffen is five years older than his counterpart, he remains effective and would be slightly cheaper.

Despite suggestions of a potential long-term deal for Clowney, any potential deal will likely be a short term one due to probable impending extensions for Garrett, Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb and quite possibly Baker Mayfield. 

Whether the Browns sign either Clowney or Griffen, he would almost certainly be propelled into a starting role. The question would then be, would it spell the end for Olivier Vernon?

It may be worth keeping Vernon as he could prove to be incredibly effective in a rotational role and would be a solid insurance policy in the event of an injury to Clowney or should Griffen falter, which isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. That being said, it still wouldn’t make much sense for the Browns to have fifteen million dollars tied up in a rotational player. Furthermore, would Vernon actually be needed with Garrett, Clowney or Griffen and Adrian Clayborn locking down roles on the edge?

Nothing appears to be imminent on Clowney’s, Griffen’s or the Browns’ front for that matter. While COVID-19 hasn’t helped free agents this year, neither pass rusher is in a rush to get a lower deal than expected. Until Clowney gets his figure or Griffen gets his wish and visits Cleveland in person, don’t expect to see either in a Browns uniform.

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