HOUSTON — Three weeks into training camp, Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney still has not reported, and coach Bill O’Brien was asked Wednesday about speculation that the Texans could trade the 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick.
O’Brien did not comment about trade rumors and said he still doesn’t know when Clowney will report to training camp.
“At some point he’ll come in, I believe, but that’s up to him,” O’Brien said.
But is there a chance the Texans would trade Clowney? While it’s possible, it wouldn’t be easy for Houston to find the right scenario. On Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins would not be trading for Clowney.
If there were any plans to trade Clowney, the Texans missed their window to get high value in a trade because they didn’t deal him before the July 15 franchise-tag deadline.
Now, because Clowney is not under contract with the Texans until he reports and signs his franchise tender, any team he is traded to would not be able to sign him to a long-term deal until the season is over. It’s hard to imagine a team wanting to give up a lot in a trade for Clowney when it cannot guarantee he would be more than a one-year rental. Under the franchise tag, he is scheduled to count $15,967,200 against the cap this season, and that number alone limits the Texans’ potential trade partners.
And because Clowney is not actually under contract, he essentially has a no-trade clause because he can’t be traded until he signs the franchise tender, giving him considerable power over deciding whether a trade could happen.
On the surface, trading Clowney for Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, who is currently holding out, makes sense to help the 2019 Texans fill their biggest hole. But according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Washington has told multiple teams this summer that it has no interest in trading the 31-year-old Williams.
If the Redskins don’t want Clowney, the Texans would be trading Clowney primarily for draft-pick capital, and that doesn’t help a Houston team that is coming off an AFC South title and built to win now.
So it’s a complicated situation for the Texans, whose front-office structure changed after team owner Cal McNair fired general manager Brian Gaine in June. The move gives O’Brien considerable power in the decision on whether to trade Clowney, who has long been frustrated with the organization’s unwillingness to pay him what he believes he deserves.
It is possible that O’Brien and the Texans will decide they are no longer interested in dealing with the situation and want Clowney off the roster, even if it means they don’t get a lot of compensation in return.
The best-case scenario for both sides is that Clowney shows up late in training camp in fantastic shape, plays well in 2019 and further establishes himself as an elite pass-rusher. Houston then could choose to tag Clowney again and either trade him for draft picks or let him play a second season under the tag.
In that scenario, the Texans would get another year of elite production and Clowney could strengthen his case for the big contract he believes he deserves.