His listed position will likely be left defensive end, but the Cleveland Browns plan to play Jadeveon Clowney across their defensive front depending on the situation and potential matchups. Clowney joins Myles Garrett in a pairing of former No. 1 overall picks, and at least on some passing down, Clowney is expected to line up inside next to Garrett instead of opposite him on the edge.
In the team’s release announcing the Clowney signing, Browns general manager Andrew Berry used words like “disruptive,” “relentless,” and “versatile” to describe the 28-year-old Clowney, the fifth veteran defensive free agent to sign with the Browns over the last four weeks. Berry’s primary offseason goal was to make the Cleveland defense bigger, stronger and faster. But any list of reasons the Browns feel Clowney is an upgrade should start with their inability to get off the field last year.
The Browns were the league’s worst team in 2020 when it came to stopping opponents’ fourth-down tries, allowing a conversion rate of 84 percent. They were 25th in third-down defense, allowing a conversion rate of almost 45 percent. Clowney’s ability to get in the opposing backfield is the biggest reason the Browns gave him $7 million in guaranteed money.
“Jadeveon’s play-to-play impact on the game, whether it’s in the run game, as a rusher, lined up as a three-technique or lined up as an end, is something we really value,” Berry said. “We think he’ll really be beneficial for us in our defensive system.”
The Browns expect to be able to expand the defensive playbook in their second year with defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Per Pro Football Focus, Clowney only played about 5 percent of his 2020 snaps at a true defensive tackle spot, but through his career, he has played edge and linebacker spots on both the left and right sides. Garrett had close to a 51/49 percent split on the right and left sides last season, and adding another versatile player to the defensive-line mix should give Woods plenty of options. The Browns had previously signed Takk McKinley to play on the edge, and McKinley figures to be the team’s third rusher while giving Woods the option to play three defensive ends at the same time in some third-down situations.