The Houston Texans decided to slap Jadeveon Clowney with the franchise tag today, and that move makes perfect sense for a team in the middle of a win-now window.
In news that should come as a shock to absolutely no one, the Texans decided not to let Clowney hit the open market. NFL reporter John McClain confirmed the teams’ decision to give the 26-year-old Clowney the franchise tag, and it is a strong move for Houston.
Clowney dealt with some health issues when he first came into the league, but he has been healthy over the past three years, playing in 45 of a possible 48 games. While Houston may be a bit disappointed that Clowney hasn’t become the superstar they envisioned after drafting him first overall back in 2014, that doesn’t mean that Clowney isn’t a valuable player.
Clowney’s sack production has picked up in each of the past two years, recording 9.5 takedowns in 2017 and nine more this year. It’s also important to remember that Clowney is just 26 years old, so he should be entering his prime and could be poised for a breakthrough campaign in 2019.
Houston has the cap space to absorb Clowney’s tag value, carrying about $80 million into free agency, so it’s not like keeping Clowney on the tag would impact its ability to add premium talent to the roster. The Texans are also built on the strength of their pass rush, and losing Clowney would not be wise for a team that is trying to win right now.
While Clowney isn’t the best pass rusher in the league, he has shown enough to indicate that he would receive a massive payday on the open market. Pass rushers have been prime targets for the franchise tag this year with Frank Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Dee Ford all expected to draw the tag.
That means that Houston wouldn’t be able to just spend a ton of money to replace Clowney, so they are better off just holding onto him and hoping that Clowney emerges as a superstar this season. The Texans have a limited window to win before having to pay Deshaun Watson franchise quarterback money, so keeping Clowney makes the most sense for them right now.