New Orleans didn’t think it could fit Clowney’s salary under its current cap, so it approached an unidentified team which is believed to have been the Cleveland Browns to sign Clowney to a one-year, $15 million deal that included a $5 million signing bonus.
That team would have then traded Clowney to the Saints in exchange for a second-round pick and a player. The $5 million signing bonus would have stayed with the original team while the Saints would have just been responsible for Clowney’s $10 million base salary.
However, the deal didn’t come to pass because the Saints learned the NFL was unlikely to approve the deal. NFL bylaws technically prohibit trading cash, though teams have found workarounds in the past, including the Browns.
Cleveland accepted a second-round pick and QB Brock Osweiler in what was essentially a salary dump a couple years back. Other deals have also involved teams agreeing to take on salary in order to facilitate a trade.
However, the Browns or whichever mystery team signing Clowney exclusively to trade him would have been a pretty naked violation of the spirit of those bylaws, in the opinion of the NFL.
Clowney ended up signing a one-year deal worth up to $15 million with the Titans.
Clowney, 27, is a former No. 1 overall pick of the Texans back in 2014. He was in the final year of his four-year, $22.272 million contract when the Texans picked up his fifth-year option which paid him $12.306 million for the 2018 season.
Houston franchised Clowney last year before trading him to the Seahawks at the start of the regular season.
In 2019, Clowney appeared in 13 games for the Seahawks and recorded 31 tackles, three sacks, an interception, two defensive touchdowns, four forced fumbles, two recoveries, and three pass defenses. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 20 edge rusher out of 108 qualifying players.
We had him featured in our Top 100 Available 2020 Free Agents list.