Jadeveon Clowney to the Cleveland Browns will impact the AFC North’s overall hierarchy.
After seriously looking at him in NFL free agency an offseason ago, the Cleveland Browns have signed former No. 1 overall pick in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year contract worth up to $10 million.
Clowney spent the bulk of his NFL career out of South Carolina with the Houston Texans. While he was a multi-time Pro Bowler in Houston, Clowney has been a bit of a journeyman in recent years. He spent the 2019 NFL season with the Seattle Seahawks and recorded no sacks during his 2020 season with the Tennessee Titans. Maybe he can experience a resurgence playing in Cleveland?
How does Clowney’s signing with the Browns impact the overall perception of the AFC North?
Cleveland Browns: AFC North power rankings after Jadeveon Clowney signing
Should be improved, but may not have the right head coach to succeed
The Cincinnati Bengals are about a year or so away from being a competitive team in a tough division like the AFC North. They seem to have the right quarterback in Joe Burrow, but the Bengals are at a talent discrepancy at most other positions on the gridiron. While the Bengals should be improved in 2021, this is a critical year for head coach Zac Taylor to prove himself.
The Super Bowl window is slamming shut in 2021 if it hasn’t already
The Pittsburgh Steelers can deny it all they want, but their Super Bowl window will be slammed shut after this season if it hasn’t already. Though he used to be unbelievable, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is now an offensive liability. With next to no running game, Pittsburgh has only one way to win this season, and that is with defense. This is a Wild Card team at best for this season.
Must prove to the NFL that last year was not an anomaly
Adding Clowney does not change the Browns all that much, but it does indicate they are more likely to remain a playoff team than not. Even though this is an offensive-driven team, the Browns are going for broke when it comes to building up its defensive line. Clowney should fit in perfectly opposite Myles Garrett like he did when he thrived with J.J. Watt in Houston.
The most well-run organization in the division gets the benefit of the doubt
Ultimately, this all comes down to what organization you trust the most. Throughout the 21st century, few franchises have been as well-run as the Baltimore Ravens. Seeing Lamar Jackson finally win a playoff game lifts a huge burden off the Ravens’ back. However, this team feels like it is good enough to win the division, but not advance any further than the AFC Championship game.
Overall, the AFC North is totally capable of sending three teams to the playoffs. Baltimore feels like a lock and Cleveland feels like a good bet as well. Though it could go either way with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati will not be ready for the big stage until 2022 or 2023 at the absolute earliest. With that in mind, this looks to be the most competitive division top to bottom in the AFC.
Signing Clowney largely ensures the Browns will be one of the seven best teams in the AFC again.