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Chris Clemons: The Perennially Injured, Formerly Undrafted, Situational Pass Rusher Signed to an $18 Million Contract

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Chris Clemons played linebacker at Georgia for the David Greene Bulldogs. He started his freshman season, but suffered a shoulder injury that cost him action and knocked him down to reserve status. Clemons started three games his sophomore season and then ten as a junior before declaring for the NFL draft. His career line was very unimpressive: 97 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and two passes defended.

Clemons predictably was not drafted. Describing why he declared early, despite a lukewarm at best junior season, Clemons told the Washington Post "a bunch of reasons. The grades weren't going well, and I feel like I had a pretty good year, good enough to get drafted. Of course that didn't happen, so I've just got to stick with what I'm doing and try to make the team." Let's see if I can translate: "I was flunking out of school and about as likely to be drafted as I ever would be."

Clemons earned a spot with the Redskins. The defensive coordinator at the time was Greg Edwards, most recently of Florida and now a Buffalo Bill. Edwards has spent most of his career as a linebackers coach. Something about Clemons caught his eye, briefly. He was invited to camp, underwent an emergency appendectomy,  and suffered a lucky injury. A sprained shoulder* forestalled his inevitable cut, and the Redskins stashed him away on injury reserve.

Washington cut Clemons prior to the 2004 season and he was eventually signed to the Cleveland Browns practice squad. Gregg Williams took over as the defensive coordinator, and Williams blitzes his linebackers with abandon. Washington signed Clemons after losing Mike Barrow. Clemons very first regular season play ended with him sacking Ben Roethlisberger. He finished out the season as a situational pass rusher, and recorded three sacks.

He was re-signed prior to the 2005 season and made the team as a situational pass rusher. He had nine tackles and two sacks before again landing on IR, this time with a partially torn MCL. He recovered in time to make Redskins camp, where he sprained his MCL, and was subsequently waived. He did not play in the 2006 season.

Clemons signed to the Lane Kiffen Raiders prior to the 2007 season. He had his best season, and maybe his only fully healthy season as a pro. If you are looking for an upside for Clemons, this it: He made two starts, played in all 16 games and had eight sacks. Eight sacks, 20 tackles.

The Eagles signed Clemons to a five-year $18.5 million contract in March of 2008. In July, he was hospitalized for dehydration. He then missed much of the preseason with a calf injury. For the next two seasons, Clemons played as a situational pass rusher. The Eagles signed Clemons to a contract that does not get expensive until 2011,  when his cap number balloons first to $3.9 million and then to $4.2 million. [Edit: Seattle is not on the hook for Clemons signing bonus, which could impact these cap numbers.] The Eagles got him for cheap. They just needed a sucker to unload him on before 2011. Seattle stepped up.

So, if anyone tells you that Seattle traded Darryl Tapp for a fourth round pick and a 30-year old defensive end, you can counter, Seattle traded Darryl Tapp for a fourth-round pick, a 28-year old situational pass rusher with a morbid injury history, and the right to pay that former undrafted player's utterly ridiculous salary. That, ladies and gentleman, is the kind of roster move that makes me fear for the future of this franchise.

*Both a shoulder injury and a torn ACL are listed as reasons Clemons landed on injured reserve. Maybe he had both.