With Cam Newton's signing with the New England Patriots several days ago, the easy choice as the No. 1 free agent still on the market in the NFL is unquestionably former Houston Texan franchise tag designee Jadeveon Clowney. After a season where he did some good things for the Seattle Seahawks, yet still only accumulated three sacks, the referendum on Clowney has become clear — he is good enough to warrant competitive offers (the Cleveland Browns reportedly were hot on Clowney a few weeks ago), but not good enough to pay among the tippy top defensive players. Not without an in-person physical and several more sacks per season, at least.
Speculation recently surrounded Clowney and his possibly signing with the Dallas Cowboys, which would be a fun fit from a schematic standpoint, but unlikely considering the Cowboys have spent the last year paying their top stars and they are about to pay Dak Prescott, at the very least, on a franchise tag. Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com recently fueled some of that speculation with interesting reasoning as to why Clowney might want to sign with Dallas:
Could Clowney be coming back to Texas? @TonyPauline of PFN joined the Blitz to talk about Clowney's interest in the Cowboys and the reasoning behind it @rjochoa @JasonMinnix @RobThompsonESPN pic.twitter.com/d1PukB3dRe— ESPN SA (@ESPN_SA) June 26, 2020
I am skeptical that wanting to "stick it to" a former employer would be a primary motivator in a decision that involves tens of millions of dollars. However, let's pretend for a second that it is. Is Dallas the best place for Clowney to "stick it to" the Texans? Yeah, Dallas is also in Texas, and we in Houston "hate Dallas blah blah blah," but given that the Texans and Cowboys only play each other once every four years (in the regular season), I can name at least eight places that would be a bigger middle finger from Clowney to Bill O'Brien. Here they are:
The franchise that left Houston, a division rival, with the head coach who used to work for the Texans, signs Clowney to try to murder Deshaun Watson twice per year. Doesn't get much more "stick it to" than that.
It's a virtual tie, in my opinion, between the Titans and Colts, who are just as hated as the Titans, and slightly more annoying. There wouldn't be near the forgiveness from Texan fans as there was when Andre Johnson signed with Indy.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Cam Newton and Clowney in free agency would be quite the "double dip" in free agency this late in the game. Clowney falling out of favor with O'Brien's new culture, and finding a home with Belichick's culture would be irony, indeed.
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Back in August 2019, Clowney rejected a trade to the Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil. Instead, the Texans ended up trading two first round picks and a second round pick to the Dolphins for Tunsil, a move that has gutted the Texans drafts in 2020 and 2021. Clowney voluntarily going to the Dolphins a year later would be an underrated "Screw you, Billy O."
Clowney signing with the Carinals would throw a spotlight again on the Hopkins trade, and likely create a mini therapy group of former Texans in the desert.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The top three teams in the AFC, in my opinion, with the added bonus in Pittsburgh that J.J. Watt would be super jealous that Clowney gets to play with Watt's younger brothers, T.J. and Derek.