CLEVELAND (AP) - As he considered his next stop in the NFL, Jadeveon Clowney said there was something about the Browns that made them very appealing.
“They’re winning,” he said.
They are now, and Clowney wants to help them win it all.
The dynamic free agent defensive end signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Cleveland on Wednesday, joining All-Pro end Myles Garrett on the defensive line of a rising team looking to go even deeper in the playoffs in the 2021 season.
Clowney turned down a multiyear offer from the Browns last year (he said his former agent didn’t want him to visit them), opting instead to sign for one season with Tennessee.
Things didn’t go as he hoped with the Titans as Clowney was slowed by a knee injury that stopped him after eight games.
He’s healthy following surgery, motivated and intent on showing he can still affect a game.
“I can still dominate this league,” the 28-year-old Clowney said. “I know that.”
The Browns will line up Clowney on the opposite side of their line from Garrett, another former No. 1 overall pick who has grown into one of the league’s best defensive players and is a threat to get a sack on every snap.
And while much has been made of Clowney’s addition making Garrett better, the 28-year-old said the opposite is also true.
“I have been getting double-teamed an awful lot in this league and in my career,” Clowney said, breaking into a wide smile. “I’m looking forward to playing with somebody who is dominant on the opposite side like a Myles Garrett, who can draw a double team.
“Maybe I can go one on one more.”
Clowney’s signing excited Browns fans along with quarterback Baker Mayfield, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday. Mayfield posted a photo of Clowney on his Instagram page with the caption: “This is a nice birthday present…”
The No. 1 overall pick in 2014, Clowney hasn’t always played up to his reputation, and his stats haven’t been impressive the past few seasons - three sacks combined in 2019, 2020 - because of injuries. But Browns general manager Andrew Berry has been intrigued by him for two years, and Clowney appreciated the team’s dogged pursuit.
“He was relentless getting after me and trying to get me up here, and I am going to be relentless on that field for him,” Clowney said of Berry. “He knows I can play. He told me he likes my style of play. I said I am going to bring that here.”
To some critics, Clowney has never reached his potential. He underwent microfracture knee surgery - “probably the worst thing you could have in this game” - and although he’s been to three Pro Bowls, there are those who want to see more.
Clowney’s one of them.
“If I ever reach my max potential or get back there like I feel now, they say the sky is the limit, but it is probably higher than that,” he said. “They have footprints on the moon, though. That is where we are trying to reach. I just want to stay healthy. If I play 16 games, I think we will be ready to see. Just let me work on that.”
Berry spent this offseason upgrading Cleveland’s defense, with Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowler, his signature move. The addition may impact Berry’s plans in the upcoming draft; Cleveland’s biggest need had been an edge rusher to complement Garrett.
They took a run at J.J. Watt, who signed with Arizona. The Browns weren’t going to let Clowney slip away from them again.
“He’s one of the more disruptive players in the game and we think he’s going to add an element of ruggedness along our defensive line and will pair nicely with many of the guys we have on the roster already,” Berry said. “The other thing we love about Jadeveon is his versatility, his ability to play all across the front and impact the game regardless of his alignment.”
The Browns ended their nearly two-decade-long playoff drought last season by going 11-5 in the tough AFC North. They beat rival Pittsburgh in the wild-card round and were minutes from upsetting the then-defending champion Kansas City Chiefs before losing 22-17.
Cleveland was already a Super Bowl contender. The signing of Clowney, who has 32 career sacks, has only raised expectations.
Clowney was in a similar situation last season with the Titans, and he knows that expectations can change a team.
“When guys are trying to win and everybody is looking for the win, it brings out the best in everybody on the team,” he said. “When you start winning, everybody is happy and everybody wants to go out there and make plays and ball.
“I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, we can get on that winning train and everybody just wants to go out there, dominate and make plays.”
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