Dealing for Clowney makes plenty of sense

DT would im­me­di­ately be­come Ea­gles’ best player at the po­si­tion

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

They’re in a win-now mode but all banged up again, al­most as much as they were head­ing into last sea­son.

That’s one rea­son the Philadelph­ia Ea­gles should pur­sue Jade­veon Clowney, the right­fully dis­grun­tled pass rusher whose re­la­tion­ship with his em­ploy­ers, the Hous­ton Tex­ans, is seem­ingly frac­tured beyond repair.

Here’s another: He’s bet­ter than any­one they have now at a po­si­tion of need.

It might not have been, had gen­eral man­ager Howie Rose­man not traded away their top edge rusher from last sea­son, Michael Bennett (9 sacks) or al­lowed their sec­ond-best edge rusher Chris Long (6.5 sacks) to re­tire with­out resistance. They con­trib­uted more that a third of the team’s healthy num­ber of 44 sacks, which was eighth best in the league.

With­out Clowney, there’s lit­tle chance that a team whose top pres­sure pro­ducer, Fletcher Cox, came from the in­side last sea­son can come close to that this year.

God bless Bran­don Gra­ham, ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite Ea­gle, but he just turned 31 and is com­ing off a sea­son in which he pro­duced 4 sacks. Vinny Curry re­turned after a year in ex­ile at Tampa Bay, where he had 2.5. Ac­tu­ally the only year that he fin­ished with over 4 was 2014. Derek Bar­nett, we keep being told, will be re

turn­ing soon from an in­jury that limited him to six games and 2.5 sacks in 2018. They drafted Josh Sweat last year, but he couldn’t get on the field, then landed on IR.

They drafted Sha­reef Miller this year and have added some de­cent-look­ing vet­er­ans in Kasim Ede­bali and Eli Harold to go with Daeshon Hall, who has been a stand­out through­out the pre­sea­son.

But 44 sacks? Not a chance, even if Cox, who has missed all of train­ing camp re­hab­bing from an in­jury, and newly ac­quired Ma­lik Jack­son have mon­ster years rush­ing from the in­side.

Clowney is more than just a pass rusher, too. He’s a dis­rupter — as good against the run as he against the pass.

He’s a freak in a much dif­fer­ent sense of the word than Jevon Kearse, the other freak they ac­quired just be­fore their 2004 Su­per Bowl run, ever was.

In ad­di­tion to his 29 sacks, ac­cu­mu­lated over just the pre­vi­ous four sea­sons, he has 64 ca­reer tack­les for losses.

That’s ba­si­cally twice as many as Curry (32.5), who came into the league two years ear­lier, and al­most as many as Gra­ham, who came in four years ahead of him.

What Clowney would cost the Ea­gles to ac­quire could be pro­hib­i­tive, and any trade in­volv­ing their first-round pick next year or their first-round pick this year, tackle Andre Dil­lard, would not be rec­om­mended here. So lets get that out of the way be­fore go­ing any fur­ther.

But the Tex­ans need of­fen­sive line help, and the Ea­gles have plenty be­sides Dil­lard. The big­gest name is Big V, Halapouli­vaati Vaitai, who’s proven him­self as a tackle and has per­formed so well as Bran­don Brooks’ tem­po­rary re­place­ment at right guard this sum­mer that he now looks like he could have an even brighter fu­ture on the in­side.

If the Tex­ans are OK with Big V and, say, a third-round pick, Rose­man and the Ea­gles shouldn’t hes­i­tate to pull the trig­ger, pay Clowney the $17.1 mil­lion he seeks as as a franchise-tagged de­fen­sive end in­stead of the $15.4 the Tex­ans are try­ing to pay him as a fran­chised line­backer and fig­ure out next year when they get there.

Next year would be the ear­li­est they could ne­go­ti­ate with him on stay­ing beyond 2019, thanks to com­pli­cated NFL rules.

But the ges­ture of rec­og­niz­ing him as a de­fen­sive end, which he would be 100 per­cent of the time in the Ea­gles’ sys­tem any­way, and the cham­pi­onship cul­ture Clowney would be ex­posed to by mak­ing the move could well be enough to con­vince him to stay.

In the mean­time, they im­prove their cham­pi­onship chances, which al­ready are pretty damn good with­out him.

CHRIS SZAGOLA/AP

Tex­ans de­fen­sive tackle Jade­veon Clowney would be a nice fit for the Ea­gles if they can ac­quire the dis­grun­tled pass-rusher.

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