ESPN.com’s Mike Sando compiled a list Tuesday of five blockbuster NFL trades he’d like to see happen. Among them: a deal that would send Pro Bowl edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney to the pass-rush-needy New England Patriots.
In this scenario, the Houston Texans trade Clowney to New England in exchange for the Patriots’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (31st overall). Sando included a note that “NFL executives proposed, vetted and/or heard rumors about all five of these deals,” meaning at least a few higher-ups around the league believe this swap is theoretically possible.
“If the Texans think J.J. Watt will justify his current expensive contract for years to come,” Sando wrote, “they could have reservations about paying Clowney even more. This deal would help Houston recoup an early pick after sending its second-rounder to Cleveland in the Brock Osweiler deal (last March).”
Would it be a smart move for the Patriots? Good question.
Clowney, a Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons and first-team All-Pro in 2016, is an elite pass rusher coming off the best statistical season of his career.
The 25-year-old recorded 9 1/2 sacks and 21 quarterback hits in 2017, finished second in the NFL in tackles for loss with 21 and added two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, all while playing in 16 regular season games for the first time in his career. He’s a beast, plain and simple.
The idea of pairing Clowney with Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers is intriguing, to say the least, and help on the edge is one of the Pats’ biggest areas of need this offseason.
His price tag could give New England pause, though, as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is set to make $13.8 million this season and is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Would it be worth surrendering a first-round pick for a player who may only be in Foxboro for one season, even if that player is as talented as Clowney? Maybe, but probably not. (It’s worth noting the Patriots likely would land a 2020 compensatory pick if Clowney left in free agency, so the trade could end up being the 31st pick this year for Clowney and a third- or fourth-rounder two years from now.)
Sando’s list also includes a proposal involving Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks, whom New England gave up a first-round pick to acquire around this time last year. In that hypothetical trade, the Pats would send Cooks — who, like Clowney, is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal — to either the Chicago Bears or the Washington Redskins in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick.
This one seems less desirable for New England. Cooks has his flaws as a player, and his cap hit balloons from $1.56 million to $8.46 million this season, but he still caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season as a Patriot. Giving him up for a second-round pick doesn’t sound like good value, especially with the 2020 comp pick likely heading the Patriots’ way if he signs elsewhere next spring.
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