Jadeveon Clowney signed a one-year deal with the Ravens on Friday, giving the team’s outside linebacker group a jolt three weeks before the season opener.
Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who visited Baltimore over a week ago and Jacksonville this week, agreed to a contract reportedly worth up to $6 million. He watched the team’s training camp practice Friday from the sideline.
“I think Jadeveon is a tough, hard-nosed, throws-his-body-around kind of player,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve played against him so many times. We understand how he plays. We’re excited to have him, and he’s excited to be here, so I think he’s a good fit in this defense.”
The former No. 1 overall pick has 43 sacks over nine NFL seasons, including nine with the Cleveland Browns in 2021. Clowney recorded just two sacks in 12 games last season despite starting opposite All-Pro Myles Garrett, one of the league’s most double-teamed players. He’s played for four teams over the past five seasons — the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland — never signing more than a one-year deal at any stop.
The Ravens had sought defensive help on the edge for over a month, targeting defensive end Dawuane Smoot and hosting outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy on a visit before bringing in Clowney on Aug. 8. Smoot re-signed with the Jaguars, Van Noy remains unsigned, and Justin Houston, the Ravens’ top pass rusher last season, signed with the Carolina Panthers.
That left the Ravens in need of pass-rush help. Outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo have impressed in offseason workouts and training camp, but Tyus Bowser has yet to be cleared to practice and Tavius Robinson is a rookie. The defense finished tied for fifth in sacks last season but rated 25th in pressure rate, according to Pro Football Reference. With cornerback Marlon Humphrey recovering from minor foot surgery, the Ravens’ defensive front could take on an even greater burden entering the season.
Clowney should help against the run, a strength for the Ravens last year. As a pass rusher, though, his potential impact could be limited. Clowney’s win rate on true pass sets — a sample that excludes plays with play-action passes, screens, short drop-backs, a time to throw of less than two seconds or fewer than four pass rushers — has fallen each of the past three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. Last year, he finished 37th among qualifying edge rushers, behind Houston (17th) and Oweh (26th).
“He’s a high-energy player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very physical player. He’s a guy, when he plays, he’s kind of reckless with his body. I mean, he throws it around. He’s heavy-handed. He’s a power rusher. He’s a really good pass rusher. I think he’s a little underrated as a pass rusher.”
Clowney has ties to the Ravens’ coaching staff. Under then-Houston Texans defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, now a Ravens assistant head coach, he made the Pro Bowl each year from 2016 to 2018, when he had a combined 24.5 sacks. Harbaugh said Weaver, also the Ravens’ defensive line coach, was a “strong advocate” for reuniting with Clowney, “and that carries a lot of weight.”
Clowney also worked with Chuck Smith, now a first-year outside linebackers coach in Baltimore, four years ago at a pass-rushing camp hosted by Julius Peppers in Miami.
In Baltimore, he will have a chance at a fresh start. Clowney’s tenure in Cleveland ended on bad terms. Early last season, he refused to play on first or second down in a Week 7 loss to the Ravens, according to Browns defensive ends coach Chris Kiffin, because he was upset with the Browns’ game plan.
Later in the season, Clowney told Cleveland.com that he likely wouldn’t return to the Browns because they were “trying to get [Garrett] into the Hall of Fame instead of winning games.” Clowney was sent home before the team’s final practice of the season and was ruled out of Cleveland’s eventual loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Clowney later said he apologized to Garrett and also claimed his comments in the interview with Cleveland.com were “completely misrepresented” and “taken out of context.”
“I think he’s a really good guy,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a team guy. He wants to be with these guys. He likes these guys. He’s spent time with these guys. We spent a lot of time together. He spent time with the coaches. We have a really high comfort and confidence level in how he’s going to fit in.”
Clowney is the second veteran player the Ravens have added in the past 24 hours. The team signed cornerback Ronald Darby to a one-year deal on Thursday after losing Humphrey to the foot injury.