This one’s juicy.
The 49ers reportedly “have recently expressed interest in (signing) free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney,” according to thepick6.com, who cites a source. This report also said “nothing is imminent” and the 49ers merely were “testing the waters.”
I have no idea who thepick6.com is, or if this report is legit. But I freaking love the idea of the 49ers signing Clowney. I tweeted in February that the 49ers should re-sign DeForest Buckner, let Arik Armstead leave and sign Clowney. Instead they let Buckner leave and re-signed Armstead, who’s cheaper than Buckner, so theoretically the 49ers have even more money they can use to sign Clowney.
Here’s why the 49ers should seriously consider signing him, and potentially could sign him before the season starts.
1. When motivated and healthy, Clowney is as good as any 49ers defensive lineman.
He was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, and about once a month he shows why. Last season, when he played for the Seahawks, he almost single-handedly beat the 49ers in Levi’s Stadium — he was without question the best player on the field for either team. He was disruptive, he created a turnover and the 49ers simply couldn’t block him.
But the second time the 49ers faced the Seahawks, Clowney did nothing, which is what he did most of last season, when he recorded only three sacks. So although he’s capable of taking over games, he does so only when motivated and healthy.
He should be both now.
2. The 49ers theoretically can keep Clowney motivated and healthy.
They can sign him to a one-year deal, which would keep him motivated, because he would be playing for a contract. And they can keep him healthy by using him in a rotation of pass rushers, so they don’t overwork him. The 49ers have the deepest defensive line in the entire league.
Clowney doesn’t always play well when he’s injured — he tends to protect himself because he wants big money in free agency, big money he hasn’t gotten yet. But the 49ers can use him judiciously, so he’ll be fresh and pain-free when he’s on the field.
So what’s in it for Clowney?
He can play with elite pass rushers, boost his numbers, potentially win a Super Bowl and revive his market value.
3. The 49ers have salary cap space to sign Clowney.
They currently have more than $12.1 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com. And they can create an additional $4.8 million in cap space by cutting guard Tom Compton and running back Tevin Coleman, who are replaceable.
Meaning the 49ers can offer Clowney a one-year deal worth almost $17 million if they want to. And they probably don’t have to offer him that much. They might be able to get him for much less.
4. The 49ers certainly don’t want the Seahawks to sign Clowney.
The Seahawks just closed the gap between themselves and the 49ers in 2020 by trading for All Pro safety Jamal Adams. If the Seahwks re-sign Clowney, too, they just might win the NFC.
The Seahawks seem to think Clowney will return to them with his tail between his legs and accept whatever lowball deal they’ve offered him. I’m sure the 49ers would love to swoop in and steal Clowney away from the Seahawks the way the Seahawks may have stolen Adams away from the 49ers.
5. Clowney would make the 49ers’ pass rush the best in the NFL.
Clowney and Nick Bosa would be the starting defensive ends, rookie Javon Kinlaw would play nose tackle, and Arik Armstead would move over to DeForest Buckner’s old position — three-technique defensive tackle. And on pass-rushing downs, Kinlaw would go to the bench, Dee Ford would replace him on the field and the 49ers could use one defensive tackle and three defensive ends, because Ford, Bosa and Clowney all have experience rushing from the interior.
Armstead, Ford, Bosa and Clowney would be the best four-man pass rush in the NFL. And Clowney wouldn’t affect the 49ers’ cap space long term — he’d be a one-year rental.
Sign the guy. Win the freaking Super Bowl next season. Go all in.