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To Clowney or not to Clowney? Win now, or keep building?

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Which would Ravens fans prefer?

Wild Card Round - Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Jadeveon Clowney, the former No. 1 pick from the 2014 draft is still unsigned. After radio silence from Clowney’s camp for quite some time, Clowney posted a workout and interview with Houston media. He has declared himself fully healthy, patient, but ready to go.

The Baltimore Ravens were included among a short list of interested teams. This comes as no surprise, as Baltimore has spent a majority of their offseason capital on bolstering their defensive front. By trading a day three pick for Calais Campbell and extending him to two-year deal, signing veteran Derek Wolfe, then investing four draft picks on linebackers and defensive linemen, the Ravens have already renovated their front seven.

While Eric DeCosta is probably just sniffing around and driving the price up, the Ravens can’t be entirely ruled out.

With a little over $10 million in cap space, the Ravens will need around $3-5 million for in-season moves. When their rookie class is signed, they will have somewhere around $8 million in cap space.

They also have the ability to restructure Marcus Peters, Earl Thomas and/or Brandon Williams by converting a portion their respective 2020 salaries into bonuses. The Ravens can free up nearly $17 million if they choose to do so.

They won’t do that, in all likelihood. This article is intended as a hypothetical to ask fans a question at the end. Simply asking if taking away some cap flexibility down the road is worth a trip to the Super Bowl in 2021.

The cost would be cap space and flexibility in 2021-2022. With Ronnie Stanley entering his fifth-year option, the final of his contract, the Ravens will probably have to shell out over $20 million per year to retain the All-Pro left tackle. Marlon Humphrey is on the same path as Stanley, another All-Pro who is likely going to reset the market for cornerbacks in 2021.

Lamar Jackson is still under control through 2022, with Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown under control through 2021. It is a tad early to start counting those chickens, but certainly they factor into the long term plans of the team’s salary structure.

The Ravens also have Matthew Judon franchise tagged, which gives them the ability to negotiate a new contract until mid-July. Judon, if extended, could have a contract structured similarly in terms of cap hit percentage by year to Dallas Cowboys edge Demarcus Lawrence, with a light cap hit in year one. Ronnie Stanley could also have his 2020 cap hit lightened with an extension.

Getting ahead of Stanley’s contract could be useful in the long run, as price only goes up over time without a major change in circumstances. In short, the Ravens have enough flexibility to pay Jadeveon Clowney on a one or two year deal, paying him somewhere around the franchise tag figure that Judon is currently under. It’s unlikely they do so, but entirely possible.

Doing so would restrict the Ravens cap flexibility by:

• Increasing the cap hit of Peters, Thomas and/or Williams in 2021.

• Committing to Matthew Judon in the long term, which likely restricts the team’s flexibility after committing to Stanley and Humphrey.

The Ravens have built through the draft, extended players early (Nick Boyle, Patrick Ricard, Tavon Young, Marcus Peters) and seem to be keen on the model of sustainability. They often choose to acquire third contract veterans who are out of their physical prime, but still sharp.

In comparison with a team like the Los Angeles Rams, who sold their soul in free agency and traded a king’s ransom in draft picks in exchange for a Super Bowl appearance.

Signing Clowney would be a far cry from what Rams General Manager Les Snead has done, but it would have an impact in 2021 and beyond. If the Ravens were able to sign Clowney to a short term deal, the impact would be modest on the salary cap, but still an impact nonetheless.

The question is. . . Would Clowney be the final piece that brings a Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore in 2021? That’s up for debate. Clowney is one of the best run defenders in football, and a good but not elite pass rusher.

He would present an upgrade as a disruptor to Judon, Tyus Bowser, Jaylon Ferguson and Pernell McPhee. Clowney was at his best when he was standing up outside of tackles in Houston, before playing a more traditional defensive end role in Seattle. Clowney also saw his sack rate dip, only totaling 12 over the past two seasons. However, he generated 122 pressures in that same span. Matthew Judon generated 65 in 2019, but no other Ravens defender cracked 40. With the addition Calais Campbell, who racked up over 80 pressures in 2019, the Ravens pass rush would become one of the best in football.

Pairing those three, who totaled nearly 200 pressures in 2019, alongside the likes of McPhee, Bowser, Ferguson, Wolfe, Jihad Ward, Justin Madubuike, Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison would give the Ravens one of the best defensive fronts in football. Their secondary has been touted among the top units over the past two years, and is set to return five starters, along with Tavon Young.

My intention with this article is not to steer you in one direction or the other. My intention is to ask what a Super Bowl is worth to you. What do the Ravens need to win the AFC and make it to the big game? How close are they? Is it in the cards in 2020, or do you feel they’re still a year away?

Assuming Clowney would play somewhere around Judon’s cap figure on a one or two year deal, is Clowney the final piece in a Super Bowl puzzle? If so, is one trophy worth restricting future cap flexibility? You decide.

Poll

Would signing Clowney make the Ravens a Super Bowl team?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Yes
    (478 votes)
  • 41%
    No
    (338 votes)
816 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Is winning a Super Bowl in 2020-21 worth restricting future cap flexibility?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Yes
    (415 votes)
  • 46%
    No
    (359 votes)
774 votes total Vote Now