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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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