Dec 23, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) celebrates after recovering fumble against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.

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3 reasons Saints unlikely to trade for Jadeveon Clowney

Money, money, and. . .Davenport

Seth Dunlap
August 15, 2019 - 7:21 pm
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The Jadeveon Clowney Trade Hype Machine is at runaway speed currently.  Nearly every NFL team has, in some way, been linked to rumors about how they can acquire the sixth-year defensive end from the Houston Texans.  The Saints have been one of those teams; and, if social media is any indication, fans are hoping the former South Carolina star lands in New Orleans.

While Clowney would undoubtedly upgrade the Saints pass rush -- his nine sacks last season would be good enough for second on the team -- there are a few reasons why it's highly unlikely he'll wind up in a Black & Gold uniform.  Let's quickly throw a little cold water on these trade rumors:

1.  Clowney's $16 mil salary is prohibitive, so is his franchise tag

Sure, Mickey Loomis is a master of salary cap manipulation.  The Saints' general manager seems to always find a way to sign the players he and Sean Payton want on their team.  But Clowney's $16 million cap hit for 2019 would put the Saints roughly $9.5 million over the cap.  That's a manageable number in March, but fairly prohibitive just a few weeks before the regular season.  The Texans also used the franchise tag on Clowney, meaning other teams wouldn't be eligible to sign him to a long-term contract until this offseason.  If he's not reporting to camp in Houston, do you think he'd report in New Orleans just because the Saints promise him a deal this offseason?  Plus, would the Saints really feel comfortable renting a nine-sack player they'd have to bid against the rest of the NFL to keep next spring?  Now, they could unload some salary in a return deal for Clowney but, remember, it takes two to tango.  Would the Texans agree to swap Clowney for, say, Andrus Peat?  Peat is making $9.6 million and would neatly clear just enough cap space for Clowney on the roster.  But, speaking of Peat. . . 

2.  A Clowney-for-Peat trade is almost assuredly won't happen

Not straight up, anyways.  First, Peat isn't a player anywhere near Clowney's caliber.  Pro Football Focus graded Peat at a 39.2 last season, among the worst starting guards in the NFL.  Peat has some built in excuses, including multiple injuries around him, and being forced to play left tackle for large stretches in Terron Armstead's absence.  But it would be a surprise if the Texans were ready to deal away a potential double-digit sack machine for a guard who would be a downgrade over the guys currently on their roster.  Former Saints lineman Senio Kelemete is the projected starter at left guard and graded out at a 55.6 by PFF.  Zach Fulton is the Texans probable starter at right guard and graded out at a 52.6.  No, those aren't stellar grades, but they are markedly better than Peat's.  Notwithstanding trying to prevent a riot by the Texans fan base should they trade a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher for a potential back-up offensive lineman, the Houston front office will almost assuredly receive better offers than a Clowney-for-Peat swap.  The Saints would likely have to sweeten the pot a bit for them to bite.

3.  Do the Saints want to limit Marcus Davenport's snaps again?

The Saints paid a premium price to draft Marcus Davenport in the 2018 draft.  At some point they're going to need to find out if he was worth the investment.  He certainly looked like he was for the first half of last season, when he accumulated 4.5 sacks and was highly effective in limited snaps.  A right foot injury derailed his development, and Davenport was non-effective when he returned later in the season.  With Alex Okafor, last year's starter ahead of Davenport, no longer on the roster, the team is expecting big things from Davenport in year two.  Would the Saints really want to limit Davenport's snaps again, and possibly slow down his development?  It's a bit rare anymore when any first round pick isn't a year-one starter for their team.  It's even more rare when that player isn't starting by his second season.  If New Orleans does pull the trigger on a Clowney trade, then consider that a pretty huge indictment on Davenport's development, and what they're seeing from Davenport during training camp and preseason.  

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To be clear, it's not that I think the Saints won't trade for Jadeveon Clowney.  There are just multiple hurdles they have to navigate to get there.  But if they don't think Marcus Davenport is ready to a big role in this defense by year two, then why did they use two first and one fifth round pick to select him in last year's draft?  There's been no indication any member of the coaching staff or front office has been disappointed by Davenport's progress this offseason, so it would come as a surprise if they sent a loud-and-clear message that he wasn't ready for a prominent role on this defense.

But hey, a Clowney-Davenport-Cam Jordan trio doesn't sound so bad.

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