BEREA, Ohio — Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney believes Sunday’s finale in Pittsburgh will be his last with the Browns because he wants to go where he’s valued.
“95% sure I won’t be back,” Clowney told Cleveland.com on Thursday. “But there’s still that 5%. You never know what can happen.”
Clowney, who missed four of 16 games this season because of an ankle injury and concussion, said he’ll likely be gone because he doesn’t think the Browns put him in the best positions to excel.
“I just feel like I need to be around somebody that believes in me and my ability,” Clowney, who will turn 30 on Feb. 14th said. “(It can’t) just be me believing in myself. I believe in myself more than anybody.”
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Clowney, who has only 2.0 sacks this season compared to 9.0 last season, said he’s not slamming the door shut on being back next because of a possible staff shakeup. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has been on the hotseat this season, and may or may not be back. The defense has played much better the second half of the season, but Woods will still come under scrutiny after the season for the second straight slow start by the unit.
At this point, it could go either way, and Clowney didn’t criticize Woods or blame him for anything.
“There’s supposed to be a lot of changes around here next year, so they might not be back — and I might,” Clowney said.
The root cause of his unhappiness — which has lingered throughout the season — is that he feels the Browns have removed him from favorable matchups at various points throughout the season, and put Myles Garrett on a lesser offensive lineman instead to showcase their star defensive end.
Garrett, who’s 15 sacks this season are 2.5 shy of Nick Bosa’s league-leading 17.5, is aiming for the sack title, and still has his sights on NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“You’re all trying to get somebody into the Hall of Fame when all that matters is winning,” Clowney said. “Everybody got here for a reason, and we can all make plays. I know I am.”
Clowney, playing on his second straight one-year contract here — this one worth $10 million — made it abundantly clear that he has no beef with Garrett, who’s a good friend and a great complement when they’re on the field together. Last season, Garrett set the club record with 16.0 sacks while Clowney had his nine, tied for the second-most in his career. Garrett even called the two the “best pass-rush duo in the NFL.” Garrett also lobbied hard for the Browns to re-sign Clowney in the offseason.
“I don’t even think (Garrett) notices,” Clowney said of the position switches. “I ain’t trying to say it’s him. I try to get along with everybody I play with. Me and him don’t have a problem. It ain’t his fault. It’s just B.S., and I don’t have time for it.”
He said the Browns have “got their own guys, and I ain’t one of them, so it’s time for me to get my exit slip.”
The Browns weren’t available for comment because Woods conducted his Thursday press conference before the locker room opened, and Kevin Stefanski isn’t available on coordinator day. Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin will meet with the media on Friday morning in a previously-scheduled interview, and Stefanski will also talk on Friday.
Clowney said things came to a head during the 13-3 victory victory over the Ravens when he discovered before the game they were flip-flopping him with Garrett.
“We practiced all week, and we get in the game and they want to move me,” he said. “I’m not doing that (stuff). I’m old. I’ve done my job.”
He opted to play only third downs that game because of the switch, winding up with only 22 snaps for 35%. Defensive tackle Taven Bryan started in his place, and Chase Winovich played 23 snaps for 37%. Clowney ended up with one assist that game.
“I don’t have time for that,” he said. “I’ve made my money. I’m doing this because I love the game, but keep (doing things like that) and making me not love the game.”
He said he understands the Browns wanting Garrett, their own No. 1 overall pick in 2017, to excel, but that there’s enough to go around for both.
“Let’s say it. Let’s be honest,” he said. “(It seems to me) they don’t want me to outplay nobody.”
He said he could’ve “easily” had 10 sacks this season if things had been different and “I’ll be right back there next year. I feel better this year than I did last year at this point.”
The No. 1 overall pick of the Texans in 2014, Clowney said it can be here the way it was with J.J. Watt in Houston, where Clowney had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2017 and 9.0 in 2018.
“I played with J.J. Watt, I was 20 years old at the time, 21, and it was alright for him to be deciding where I line up and (stuff),” he said. “He had already been two-time Defensive Player of the Year. It was cool. I made three Pro Bowls when I was there.”
Clowney said he started getting frustrated early in the season “and look at how my season started going after that. I started worrying about (stuff) I shouldn’t be worrying about. I’ve just got to get back to doing my own thing.”
He said it’s unfortunate because he wants to play with Deshaun Watson, his former Texans teammate, “but I’ve just got to go somewhere where someone believes in me.”
He said he plans to discuss the matter with Browns GM Andrew Berry in his exit meeting, and feels that Berry believes in him.
“I’ll be ready next year to get (after it again),” he said.
If things don’t work out with the Browns, they might still see him a couple of times a year.
“I could still end up in the division next year,” he said.
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