After several moves to clear up cap space, are the Tennessee Titans gearing up to add one of the biggest names from the free-agent market, Jadeveon Clowney?
Right before 2020 NFL free agency began, Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson decided to part ways with Dion Lewis, Ryan Succop, Cameron Wake and fan-favorite Delanie Walker so the team could have more financial flexibility moving forward.
Despite becoming the franchise’s greatest free-agent acquisition to date, Walker’s release was somewhat easy to see coming after two injury-riddled seasons. But perhaps no move broke the hearts of fans more than trading defensive lineman Jurrell Casey away to the Denver Broncos.
Casey, who was drafted in 2011, only missed five games in nine years with Tennessee. Making five Pro Bowls and being nothing short of a professional on and off the field, it’s easy to question why Robinson would decide to part ways with one of the greatest “homegrown” talents in franchise history — especially for just a seventh-round pick.
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What fans need to realize is that this move was a pure salary dump. While Casey has been one of the greatest defensive linemen in the league for the past number of years, his cap number was just far too large at $11.7 million for 2020 (via Spotrac). Robinson knows as much as anyone what Casey meant to not only the team but to the city of Nashville and fans alike. It’s hard to believe he’d make a move such as that without something big ready to follow.
This is where you insert Jadeveon Clowney. After riskily addressing the pass-rush woes with the addition of Vic Beasley Jr., the team doesn’t seem to be done trying to add to that dynamic of the defense, according to reports.
I previously cited Clowney as a realistic free-agent target for the team due to his relationship with head coach Mike Vrabel and outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen. Clowney has even gone on to say that Vrabel is the, “smartest coach” he’s ever had.
In 2017 when Vrabel had the reins of the defense in Houston, Clowney had just happened to have a career year. Not only did the former South Carolina Gamecock rack up 9.5 sacks but he also tallied 59 tackles, 21 of tackles for loss and 21 hits on the quarterback. Clowney has yet to hit any of those numbers since.
While Beasley is long and athletic, it’s noted that he has struggles setting the edge in the run game. That’s an area of the game where Clowney seems to thrive. Coming into the NFL Draft in 2014, analysts couldn’t stop themselves from talking about Clowney’s freakish athleticism and ability to get after the passer. While he has shown flashes of that, it’s his physicality in the run game that has been dominant.
With the team already having Vic Beasley and Harold Landry at the EDGE spots, some might wonder where Jadeveon Clowney would fit into the fold, especially on third downs. Well in that one year with Vrabel as the defensive coordinator, Clowney’s versatility was on full display. Lining up anywhere on the defensive front and even as an off-ball linebacker, Clowney’s presence was felt as he made plays all over the field.
The potential addition of Jadeveon Clowney could be pivotal as the Tennessee Titans’ defense looks to go from good to dominant. It’s critical the front office continues to invest into to the pass rush if this team is to compete in the AFC in late January.