Cleveland Browns trade target: DaQuan Jones could consolation prize

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HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans rushes out of the grasp of DaQuan Jones #90 of the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium on November 26, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

If as rumored Jadeveon Clowney is signed by the Houston Texans, the Cleveland Browns could still benefit if they can obtain defensive tackle DaQuan Jones.

In the event that Jadeveon Clowney spurns the proposal from the Cleveland Browns to sign with the Tennessee Titans,  there is a great chance that defensive tackle DaQuan Jones could be available, all 6-foot-4 and 322 pounds of him.

Just to underscore what has been said the past week, there is a report from Adam Schefter that the Browns were the highest bidder for Clowney so far, but they did not agree to a deal. Speculation is that someone in Clowney's camp may not favor Cleveland, but at this point, it is simply speculation. We know for sure that it has not happened yet, but it is not clear that it can never happen. It's still very possible that the Browns may eventually close this deal.

But there is also a rumor (Hello! Rumor! Not yet fact!) that Clowney may be willing to accept much less money to play for the Tennessee Titans instead of the Browns. If that happens, the Browns may be able to score a deal on a professional defensive tackle in Jones. For what it is worth, he was graded as the 30th best interior defender by Pro Football Focus, four spots lower than Sheldon Richardson of the Browns.

Related Story:Clowney to Browns won't go away

Here is how the logic goes — Tennessee is strapped for cap space to afford Clowney, because, among other things, they just emptied the piggy bank for Ryan Tannehill this off-season, signing him for a cap charge of $22.5 million. That is one of the main reasons why the Browns were able to sign Austin Hooper away from them. The Titans roster is so bloated with guaranteed contracts that there are only three players that the Titans can cut that could increase cap space by $2 million or more.  They are:

  1. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones at $7 million;

2. Tight end Jonnu Smith  at $2.1 million; and

3.  Linebacker Jayon Brown, $2.1 million.

That's all they have available, according to overthecap.com. All three of these players are starters — players that they prefer to keep on the team, but there are no other higher-salaried players on the Tennessee roster who could be cut to generate more cap space.

Another way out of the Titans dilemma would be to restructure some of their major contracts to shift more money to future years and less in 2020. But if they do that, it becomes problematic whether they could afford Clowney for more than one year especially because the 2021 salary cap allowance is expected to contract rather than expand as it usually has done. Hence, that kind of arrangement might not appeal to either side.

So, if the Titans do manage to sign Clowney, they may need to jettison DaQuan Jones on the grounds that his is the fattest available contract, really the only available contract. Hence there is a very good chance that Jones would be available to the Browns.

In Tennessee's 3-4 defense, Jones is a defensive end, though in a 4-3 defense he would be a run-stopping defensive tackle, which is exactly what the Browns need. Last year the Browns were a bottom-five defense versus the run, and that may be an overly kind assessment.

They gave up 2,315 yards on the ground and 5.1 yards per carry. How does a team have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and yet be outrushed by the opposition, by over 400 yards? Amazing.

Is it possible that the Browns can use a run-stopping defensive tackle more than a premier defensive lineman? Pro Football Focus grades Jones as the 30th best interior lineman, Clowney as the 19th best edge defender. However, the Browns already have the 11th best edge defender in Garrett and number 20 in Vernon. Thus, the addition of Clowney might not be a huge difference-maker for the Browns, even though this fan believes Clowney could be a key player to slow down the Baltimore Ravens.

If Jones can improve the run defense for half the cost of Clowney, that might be a deal. The Browns get to plug a hole on the interior of the defensive line, and the Titans get to clear enough cap space to sign Jadeveon Clowney.

Next: 5 ways Browns can have a winning record in 2020

So, which do you prefer?

Scenario 1:  Browns sign Jadeveon Clowney and cut Olivier Vernon in order to afford  Clowney.

Scenario 2:  Browns keep Oliver Vernon and sign DaQuan Jones after Tennessee cuts him.