The Browns’ interest in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was interrupted a year ago when he signed elsewhere.
It was officially renewed Wednesday, as Clowney made a free agent visit to team headquarters, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram. The visit ended and he wasn’t expected to sign right away.
The Browns pursued Clowney last year at this time, reportedly making him the highest offer. He chose the Titans on a one-year deal but is back on the market after a disappointing season that included no sacks.
The Browns have All-Pro Myles Garrett and former first-round pick Takk McKinley, who signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract last week, but are looking for more depth at defensive end.
Olivier Vernon, who started last year and had nine sacks, is a free agent and suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon Jan. 3. Top backup Adrian Clayborn was cut before free agency to clear $3 million in salary cap space.
Clowney, 28, was the No. 1 pick of the Texans out of the University of South Carolina in 2014. He would give the Browns a pair of No. 1 picks at end, as Garrett was the top pick by the Browns in 2017.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said last year the Browns had offered the most money to Clowney but he was reluctant to sign. Clowney had said he was looking to join a contender, and the Browns were coming off a 6-10 season and another coaching change.
Things have changed dramatically in Cleveland. In 2020, the Browns made their first playoff appearance in 18 years and got their first postseason win in 26 years.
The Browns weren’t able to meet with Clowney in person last year due to the pandemic, so the visit Wednesday provided that opportunity in an exploratory meeting.
Clowney signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Titans. He’s not likely to come close to that kind of money this year after another injury, no sacks and with the NFL salary cap reduced.
Clowney (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) got off to a rocky start in his NFL career, as he played only four games before being placed on injured reserve as a rookie and undergoing knee surgery. He rebounded to make the Pro Bowl in 2016, ’17 and ’18. He had 9.5 sacks in 2017 and nine in 2018.
He’s started 74 of 83 games in his career with 32 sacks, 86 quarterback hits, nine forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, an interception, 18 passes defensed, 255 tackles and 75 tackles for loss. He has four return touchdowns.
He’s been bothered by injuries throughout his career, playing 16 games just once, in 2017. He was limited to eight games in 2020 with the Titans, totaling 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, four passes defensed and a forced fumble. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus, ending his season.
Despite the stats, Pro Football Focus ranked him 19th in the NFL among edge rushers — Vernon was 20th — with a 74.9 overall grade, 69.9 vs. the run and 69.6 as a pass rusher.
In 2019, PFF graded him at 87.3 overall, 80.8 against the run and 79.1 as a pass rusher.
The Browns have other options for a veteran edge rusher, including Carlos Dunlap, Melvin Ingram and Ryan Kerrigan. They also have the No. 26 pick in the first round and No. 59 in the second round in next month’s draft.