Bucs Named Best Fit for Former No. 1 Overall Draft Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield could see a familiar face join the team before the fall.

That’s free agent edge and former No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney, who played with Mayfield for the Cleveland Browns in 2021. Heavy senior NFL writer Matt Lombardo tabbed Clowney as a best fit for the Bucs, a team that could use another force and depth up front.

“If Jadeveon Clowney could stay on the field, there’s little doubt that he would be one of the game’s most disruptive and productive front-seven defenders,” Lombardo wrote. “He just hasn’t played a full season since 2017.”

“Clowney brings a unique blend of explosive speed, strength and power that makes him difficult to keep out of the backfield, and out of the quarterback’s face,” Lombardo added. “Because Clowney is still available this late into free agency, combined with his lengthy injury history, he might be able to be had for a team-friendly deal, especially for a defense looking to add a rotational edge rusher with upside.”

Probably should block Jadeveon Clowney

— PFF (@PFF) September 12, 2021

Clowney could fit in with the Bucs defensive line rotation, which features projected starters Vita Vea, Greg Gaines, and Logan Hall. The Bucs also have backups Patrick O’Connor, Mike Greene, Deadrin Senta, and Willington Previlon. Only O’Connor has more than two games of experience among the rotational players on the line.

The Bucs need depth after losing defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches in free agency to the New York Giants. Fellow defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Will Gholston remain unsigned amid a salary cap-strapped offseason for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay has $1.32 million in salary cap space, per Spotrac, and Clowney arguably can’t command as much as he used to with his injury history. He had a one-year $8 million deal with the Browns last season, but his lingering on the free agent market indicates his signing value could teeter toward a team-friendly deal as Lombardo noted.

Landing Clowney could pay dividends for the Bucs in 2023. He is less than two years removed from a nine-sack season in 14 games for the Browns, Lombardo noted. Clowney mustered just two sacks and 28 tackles in 12 games last year with Cleveland before the Browns released him in March.

Clowney’s Career Started Strong

A No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in 2014, Clowney became a force with the Houston Texans early in his  career. He made three Pro Bowls and tallied 29 sacks, 2025 tackles, five forced fumbles, and 11 pass deflections with the franchise.

Clowney couldn’t work out a deal with the Texans in 2019, and the team traded him to the Seattle Seahawks. He tallied three sacks and 31 tackles that year in 13 games played, but the Seahawks couldn’t hang on to him as he signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2020.

In Tennessee, Clowney missed the second-most games of his career in one season with just eight games played due to a knee injury. He had just 19 tackles and four pass deflections that year.

Things Didn’t Work Out for Clowney, Mayfield in Cleveland

Clowney looked to turn his career around in Cleveland, but ultimately he fell short of consistent high  production and availability with eight games missed in two years. The Bucs are well aware that Clowney has something left from a 23-17 loss during the 2022 season where he tallied four tackles and a half sack.

If Clowney joins the Bucs, he could seek another career resurgence along with Mayfield, who also didn’t see his time end happily in Cleveland.

This content was originally published here.

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