Patriots: How NE could pull off a miracle and sign Jadeveon Clowney

DE Jadeveon Clowney (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
DE Jadeveon Clowney (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots could actually sign free agent DE Jadeveon Clowney.

If you told us a few months ago that Jadeveon Clowney would still be a free agent through mid-July as we approach the start of NFL training camp, we probably would have laughed in your face … while dialing the number for the Patriots front office.

Sure, the three-time Pro Bowler was making absurd demands by striving to reset the market for pass rushers, but we just assumed that he would eventually ink a contract as his value continued to plummet.

Well, with Clowney’s market as murky as its been throughout the offseason, it’s reasonable to think that a few surprise teams could make a late push to land his signature.

Ironically enough, the latest buzz suggests that the New England Patriots have a puncher’s chance at doing just that.

Let’s be honest, if any franchise has the capability of exploiting the loopholes of the NFL’s rulebook, it’s the Patriots, who are fresh off signing quarterback Cam Newton for pennies on the dollar. What’s more notable than that? The fact that New England recouped close to $7 million in cap space after settling the outstanding compensation grievances of Antonio Brown and the late Aaron Hernandez.

The most apparent (and potentially only) way for the Patriots to pull this off would be to give Clowney a lofty signing bonus that wouldn’t count against the cap. Generally speaking, these bonuses are often paid out within the first 12-18 months of the contract. They’re also prorated against the cap for the extent of the contract, which is largely how the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks were able to afford the monster contracts for gunslingers Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson, respectively. In this case, New England obviously wouldn’t offer the 27-year-old stud more than a one-year deal, so that makes things A LOT less complicated.

The Patriots should approach this similarly to how they managed Newton’s deal, which included a $550,000 singing bonus and close to $7 million in incentives. In all, the contract counts for a measly $1.13 million hit against the salary cap. It won’t be nearly as straightforward as that with the South Carolina product, but the parallels are undeniable.

Whether it be through a few roster cuts or via trade, New England will need to create cap space in order to afford Clowney.

More. How Should the Patriots Use Their New Cap Space?. light

However, thanks to the signing bonus defect and the fact that Bill Belichick is overseeing things, the franchise signing the former No. 1 overall pick is definitely in the realm of possibility.