The New Orleans Saints tried to land three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney by attempting a deal that some believe to be the first of its kind in NFL history.
Clowney, 27, signed a one-year contract with the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.
The deal is worth up to $15 million.
The NFL did not approve the Saints’ attempt at a sign-and-trade deal.
1. Mickey Loomis’ creativity should be commended, even though the sign-and-trade wasn’t allowed.
2. The reaction when Team X, presumably the #Browns, signed Clowney would’ve been amazing. https://t.co/NnLmjS0OFp
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 6, 2020
Unnamed sources told Pelissero and Rapoport that they believe the Browns were the mystery team.
The reasons are because the Browns have plenty of cap space and the team’s front office has made creative deals in the past.
It includes the Browns’ 2016 trade for quarterback Brock Osweiler.
OverTheCap.com shows the Browns have about $36.50 million in cap space as of Sunday night.
However, the site shows the Saints have about $9.62 million.
The Saints’ salary cap limited their ability to sign Clowney.
Here’s how the deal with the Saints and mystery team would have worked.
The mystery team would have signed Clowney to a one-year, $15 million deal and paid him a $5 million signing bonus.
Then the mystery team would have traded Clowney to the Saints in exchange for a second-round draft pick and a player to take additional salary off New Orleans’ books.
The Saints then would have paid Clowney the remaining $10 million.
On Saturday night, the teams got word the NFL would be unlikely to approve the sign-and-trade deal.
The Saints couldn’t match the Titans’ offer and Clowney ended up in Tennessee.
Clowney is expected to help bolster the Titans’ defense after they lost five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jurrell Casey.
In March 2020, the Titans traded Casey to the Denver Broncos.
The proposed deal for the Saints to land Clowney prompted a bit of reaction from other media members who cover the NFL.
The Saints really tried to pawn a draft pick to sign Clowney. They're currently operating with "Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems" levels of desperation, and personally, I support it. https://t.co/aW97pmDWSS
— Robert Mays (@robertmays) September 6, 2020
More conventional way for Saints to get Jadeveon Clowney: Don’t give Taysom Hill $21M?
— Dan Hanzus (@DanHanzus) September 6, 2020
Other teams have paid cash for picks in the past, including the Browns.
The Browns agreed to take on Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary.
In exchange, the Houston Texans sent the Browns a sixth-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018.
In 2019, the Dolphins paid quarterback Ryan Tannehill a $5 million signing bonus on a restructured contract to send him to the Titans.
The Dolphins also paid linebacker Kiko Alonso a $1 million signing bonus as part of a trade to the Saints.
In August 2019, Clowney received a $7 million signing bonus from the Texans to complete a trade to the Seattle Seahawks.
Several teams’ front office executives told Pelissero and Rapoport that they couldn’t recall any other team executing such a deal involving a free agent who was signed only to trade him.
“Fundamentally, you can’t trade cash,” a front office executive said.
In the past, the Saints have been willing to free up short-term cap space by converting large base salaries as signing bonuses and adding voidable years to contracts.
It’s unclear how much specifically the multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall from the coronavirus pandemic will impact the 2021 salary cap.
Spotrac.com shows the Saints have more than $246 million allocated in cap commitments for 2021.
In 2020, the NFL’s salary cap is $198.2 million per team.