The Z Report

Lance Zierlein: Is Jadeveon Clowney worth $15M per year?

Jadeveon Clowney had a big 2017. Houstontexans.com

The Houston Texans are under the direction of a new GM for the first time since 2006, but we still aren’t sure how different the Texans will operate as it pertains to salary extensions and how they handle roster situations.

On one hand, Bernardrick McKinney was just given a 5-year, $50M deal with $21M guaranteed. Now keep in mind that McKinney is the clear-cut thumper in the middle who has accounted for 95 and 129 tackles over the last two seasons to go along with three and five sacks in both years. McKinney has been productive, durable and consistent. McKinney will be compensated like one of the best inside linebackers in the league starting in 2019, so should Jadeveon Clowney expect the same?

The case for extending Clowney now

You have to pay Jadeveon Clowney. When Clowney has been healthy, he’s been a bonafide shop-wrecker and one of the more disruptive defensive ends in the game. Like homeruns in baseball, sacks are the sexy stat used by fans and media members to determine the worth and effectiveness of a player, but Clowney’s impact as a run defender is substantial and should not be undersold. Just google it.

 

Clowney is a plus pass rusher who has increased his sack total in each season and is coming off of a career high 9.5 sacks. This, despite the fact that J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus weren’t there to occupy blockers and take some of the offensive line’s attention away from Clowney.

J.J. Watt hasn’t been healthy for two full seasons and Clowney’s importance to this defensive front is now more critical than ever. He may not be an elite pass rusher, but he’s a damn good every down player with an ability to alter the course of a game and he’s only getting better. Clowney’s contract negotiations will likely have to start at $14M per year, but getting a deal done now could save the team millions over the life of the second contract.

The case to wait

Don’t be the desperate boyfriend looking to get married too soon, Texans. There is no reason to put an expensive ring on it until you are absolutely sure that Clowney is going to be the same guy we saw last year.

The version of Clowney that we saw last season played the full year, was great against the run and showed continued improvement as a pass rusher. That’s inarguable. But the question is whether that version of Clowney is what we are going to keep seeing. Let’s remember that this is a player who has missed two, three, and 12 games from 2016 thru 2014. He had to have microfracture surgery as a rookie. If you aren’t concerned about future durability then you might be a fool.

One could argue that Clowney approached 2017 like a contract season since it’s not unusual to get extended before your last season. So if that is the case, let’s see if he can maintain his health for consecutive seasons and let’s see if his growth as a pass rusher will continue to yield fruit. We can act like $14M is the starting point in negotiations, but in real life, the starting point is at least J.J. Watt’s average per year at about $16.6M. Can’t the Texans just wait one more season to find out if Clowney is worth this investment?

And so...?

So I’ve shown you the two arguments that are out there for signing and not signing Clowney before the season starts. I have a hard time imagining a world where Clowney isn’t a Houston Texan next season, but it could very well be with a franchise tag attached to him.

You do have to wonder why the Texans haven’t extended him already, but if I were in charge, I think I might be approaching this the same way the Texans are. Nobody is saying he’s not a very good player who is emerging as a great player, but I think I need to see it for another year.


 

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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