Updated Jan. 23, 2019
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
With all the general managers, coaches and scouts in attendance for the Senior Bowl, there is a lot of chatter going around. Here are some of the highlights from around the league on the third day of the 2019 Senior Bowl week.
The quarterbacks were some of the first player/team interviews to take place at the Senior Bowl. and there were some standouts. In speaking to the general manager of a quarterback-needy team, the players who impressed them in their interviews were Duke's Daniel Jones, Missouri's Drew Lock and West Virginia's Will Grier. Jones and Lock were not surprising. In the scouting community, it is well known that Jones was groomed well for the NFL by his head coach, David Cutcliffe. Lock also has a reputation for being very smart, nerdy, and hard working. Thus, teams were happy those expectations were met.
Grier needed to interview well because he had a suspension at Florida that caused him to transfer. There also has been talk of him and his family being high maintenance, so for Grier to impress in the interviews was very good for his draft stock. The consensus is that Jones, Lock, Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray will get selected in the first round. However, there always could be room for a fifth signal-caller given the need at the position in the NFL. Many have graded Grier on Day 2, but he is in the running to be the fifth quarterback selected and these interviews could help him to rise in terms of where he is valued.
There were two quarterbacks who were said not to interview that well: Auburn's Jarrett Stidham and Washington State's Gardner Minshew. Sources said that Stidham and Minshew would not be classified as bad interviews, but they were moderately disappointed and not impressed with either Stidham or Minshew.
It sounds like a franchise tag is coming for Houston Texans edge defender Jadeveon Clowney. Sources currently with the Texans say that they can absorb an expensive 1-year tag on Clowney. Houston staffers feel that the team is in win-now mode and has a championship window for the 2019 season, but losing Clowney would be a big blow to hopes for winning the Super Bowl next year. Texans sources say they also want to re-sign safety Tyrann Mathieu and hope to have him back in Houston next season.
While Clowney is likely to see the franchise tag, sources were not optimistic that Clowney would be signed to a long-term contract and said the franchise tag was probably only an option for one season given the cost. A long-term contract with Clowney probably would have been executed by former general manager Rick Smith. Smith had a string extensions for the team's first-round picks. Duane Brown (2008), Brian Cushing (2009), Kareem Jackson (2010), J.J. Watt (2011), Whitney Mercilus (2012) and DeAndre Hopkins (2013) were all signed to an extension before their rookie contracts ended. Clowney is the next one up, but under the new regime, it sounds like a multi-year extension is less likely. Houston sources say the cost could be more than what current general manager Brian Gaine is willing to pay.
Sources also said that the relationship between Clowney and head coach Bill O'Brien is not necessarily conducive to either side wanting to do a long-term deal. Of course, the public statements are to the contrary because they have to be for the images of both the player and organization. The Texans feel that tagging Clowney is probably the only way to keep him. If Clowney were to become an unrestricted free agent, they think he could easily choose to sign elsewhere, like other recent desirable free agents A.J. Bouye or Brandon Brooks. The Texans tried to re-sign both Bouye and Brooks before losing them to Jacksonville and Philadelphia, respectively. Some with Houston feel that O'Brien's ego and coaching style caused those veterans to prefer to move on and that Clowney would leave as well if he is not tagged.
Even though the Texans sound like they are likely to tag Clowney, they feel they do need another edge rusher. That is because Whitney Mercilus showed some signs of decline in 2018, Clowney could easily only be back for one more year, and the team felt that J.J. Watt showed some signs of aging when he played at end in 2018. Sources felt that Watt was very effective when moving inside to the three-technique and hope to convince him to play more snaps there in 2019. Thus, the Texans would ideally add another edge rusher despite those big-name veterans being projected to return for 2019.
Of course, there were other problems that led to the Texans getting bounced from the playoffs and dropping to a 1-3 postseason record under Bill O'Brien. Sources with Houston say the team has enough money to tag Clowney while also spending to upgrade the roster's weaknesses along the offensive line and at cornerback. The Texans also have an extra second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft thanks to the Duane Brown trade from 2017. They feel they are in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy next year and sound like they are firmly in win-now mode this offseason.