When the Seattle Seahawks saw their season come to a close in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers, many saw it as the starting line for negotiations with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. During the course of the 2019 season, a common refrain among many Seattle fans was that Clowney wanted to play for Seattle and would be willing to give the team a home town discount in order to continue to play in the environment that Pete Carroll has created in Seattle.
According to a report from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, however, according to sources around the league, Clowney is looking for a bag and looking to reset the market.
To better understand what a “market-setting contract” means for a defensive player, here’s a review of what are currently the five largest contracts for defensive players in the NFL:
- Aaron Donald: 6-years, $135M ($22.5M per year)
- Khalil Mack: 6-years, $141M ($23.5M per year)
- DeMarcus Lawrence: 5-years, $105M ($21M per year)
- Frank Clark: 5-years, $104M ($20.8M per year)
- Von Miller: 6-years, $114.5M ($19.083M per year)
Lawrence and Clark both signed their contracts last spring, Donald and Mack signed theirs on the eve of the 2018 season and Miller signed his all the way back in 2016. So, with that in mind, a “market-setting” deal likely means the largest contract ever for a defensive player, which would be in excess of either Donald of Mack. Now, interestingly, none of those five players every hit free agency.
Miller and Lawrence each signed their contracts after having the franchise tag applied. Donald was awarded his contract after holding out through training camp and both Clark and Mack signed after forcing a trade from their former team. Thus, Clowney hitting free agency will be the first time a player considered one of the top edge defenders in the game will actually reach free agency in their prime in a long time. That likely gives Clowney the leverage he needs to become the first defensive player to hit $25M per year, and could see him become the first defensive player to sign a contract for more than $150M.
In short, Clowney has set things up to sign a contract bigger than the one the Hawks gave to Russell Wilson last spring. While Clowney’s contract will almost certainly cover a longer timeframe than the four year extension Wilson signed, with each passing day it appears more and more likely that Clowney has played his last down for the Seahawks. That was always a risk when the Seahawks made the move to bring him into the fold on the eve of the season, and it is a move the team would be likely make again if given the chance, even with advance knowledge that Clowney likely leaves after playing out the season.