The New Orleans Saints appear to be tipping their hand regarding their pursuit of Jadeveon Clowney based off their roster cuts.
On Thursday, the pursuit for free agent edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney finally heated up after months of inaction. Reports indicated that the Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints reached out to Clowney in hopes of signing him to a contract. Things took another turn on Friday, as head coach Sean Payton met with Clowney over dinner. In case you were wondering how that meeting went, then look no further than their roster moves on NFL Cut Day.
When reducing their roster to 53-players, the Saints opted to release defensive end Mario Edwards and linebacker Anthony Chickillo, which frees up $3 million in cap space.
More money freed up could help Saints sign Clowney
Entering Saturday’s cut day, the Saints had limited cap space available to them, but that has since increased with the removals of Edwards and Chickillo. Edwards was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract in 2019, where he recorded three sacks last season. As for Chickillo, he was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers back in March, before landing in New Orleans in May, but was signed more as a depth option.
Clowney is coming off a rather down season with the Seattle Seahawks, but he has credited the dropped production to a core muscle injury. The edge rusher recorded 31 total tackles, four forced fumbles and three sacks in 13 games. Despite the low sack total, Clowney did force 30 quarterback pressures last season.
The Saints know that they have to speed up negotiations with Clowney, whom has reportedly said that he plans to sign with a team before Week 1 of the 2020 season. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Saturday that the Clowney is mulling offers from the Saints and Titans, while noting that the Baltimore Ravens are considered wild cards and the Seahawks are monitoring the situation. Considering that he has to go through COVID-19 testing protocols, the Saints have to reach an agreement with the edge rusher by the end of Labor Day weekend if they want him to suit up for their season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Saints are Super Bowl or bust this season, and they can increase their odds of representing the NFC in the big game by creating a dominant pass rushing duo of Clowney and Cameron Jordan. However, the clock is ticking, and they simply can’t afford to lose him to another suitor.