The Cleveland Browns secured their dominant edge-rushing pair by finalizing a one-year, $10 million deal with free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney yesterday—at least in theory. The veteran has only recorded three sacks over the course of his past 21 games in the previous two seasons, having battled health issues during that time.
His most recent injury was a meniscus tear in his knee, which required him to cut his 2020 season short and have surgery. Clowney only signed with the Tennessee Titans in training camp. He played in eight games without recording a sack, but is ready to prove that he’s still everything he’s ever been.
“I stopped playing last season because of a meniscus. I am glad I did when I did stop and it did not get worse, and then I went to get surgery,” he told reporters yesterday after signing his new deal with the Browns. “I feel great now. I am looking forward to this season and prove to guys that I am back healthy and I still can dominate in this league. That is all I am here to prove this year.”
The former first overall pick pairs with another first overall pick in Myles Garrett, who has frankly had something much closer to the career that most anticipated Clowney would have. In 51 career games, he has recorded 42.5 sacks, with 83 QB hits and 10 forced fumbles since being drafted in 2017.
Finding a complementary pass rusher to pair with Garrett has been a struggle for the Browns over the course of his career. When healthy, Olivier Vernon has been able to step up some over the course of the past two years, but he has missed a good chunk of time and has played through injuries. Vernon is no longer with the team after recording nine sacks in 14 games a year ago.
Clowney understands the perception he’s facing from recent years. After Houston traded him under the franchise tag to the Seattle Seahawks in 2019, he only recorded three sacks in 13 games. Then he had none in eight with the Titans in 2020. Now coming off of surgery, he is facing a lot of skepticism from those who believe he needs to prove himself.
“Yeah, for sure, especially coming off of this injury,” Clowney said when asked if he feels he needs to show he is an elite player for the Browns under the circumstances. “I did not get to finish this past season. I just want to show that I am still an elite player, more by proving to myself than anything and prove to other people that I am still out here and can dominate. We are going to see this season.”
Both he and Garrett are players who have spent much of their careers facing double teams, so having them both on the field at the same time will necessitate that offenses pick and choose who gets a double team when. This is the luxury of having two great pass rushers, which — in theory — the Browns now believe they have.