Chris Clemons Injury Implications: Short and Long Term

Update January 8: The Seahawks have signed Patrick Chukwurah to replace Clemons. Chukwurah was drafted by the Vikings in 2001, and has 9.0 sacks and 58 tackles in 78 career games at defensive end and linebacker. Chukwurah logged games in the NFL in 2007, and the 33 year old has played in the UFL for two seasons. 

As awesome as the Seattle Seahawks fanbase has become, and in some ways has always been, there’s very little doubt in my mind that you found out that Chris Clemons tore his ACL long before heading to this website. Because most bloggers have day jobs, and the internet and smartphones have revolutionized news and sports coverage, it’s pretty rare that you hear of any blog breaking any kind of news. What blogs are meant for is to interpret news through the words of the author.

Chris Clemons tore his ACL. That’s bad news for the Seahawks on a lot of levels. He’s the best pass-rusher on a team that has a suspect pass-rush—one of the only weaknesses on the defense.

Clemons is also one of few true veterans on the team, if you think that kind of thing is important, and he performs well, which magnifies his importance if you have already bought into the “veteran leadership” value.

We all feel good about some of the things that Bruce Irvin brings to the table, too, and Irvin probably gets more snaps, and maybe more snaps on the right side of the defense now that Clemons is out. I’m not going to try to sell anyone on some fallacy that the Seahawks could actually be better without Clemons. Even if Irvin steps up and equals Clemons’ production, there remains a gaping hole where Irvin was.

The team may look into an option like signing Ray Edwards, who played in Atlanta last year. Edwards was cut nine games into this season though, and has yet to catch on anywhere else. After two straight seasons with more than eight sacks, Edwards has only 3.5 in his 25 games since joining the Falcons. I’m not a psychologist or a defensive coordinator. I don’t know if Edwards is just an asshole, or he quit trying, or if Atlanta’s scheme hurt him, or if Minnesota’s scheme falsely inflated his numbers. He may be worth adding, but he’s probably not worth adding if he’s a piece of shit. This isn’t the time in the season to start taking chances on guys being pieces of shit.

And the idea that Edwards should be able to give the Seahawks inside information on the Falcons defense assumes that he was well-versed in their defense, and there’s a chance that he wasn’t, and that’s why he got cut.

The only internal options the Seahawks have would be to give Greg Scruggs more snaps, or bear with the mobility issues that Red Bryant has, as the team has no other 4-3 ends on the roster or practice squad.

This is also a particularly unfortunate time for the Seahawks to lose Clemons as hit puts his 2013 season in jeopardy, and the Seahawks signed Clemons to a contract extension before the season. We saw Adrian Peterson recover incredibly from a torn ACL, but we should never use extreme outliers to develop our expectations. If Clemons isn’t available next year then his future with the team may be in jeopardy.

Clemons is due a $6 million base salary next year, $1.5 million of which is guaranteed. That leaves $4.5 million in non-guaranteed cap space that Clemons accounts for, but if the team cut him they’d have to take about a $4.3 million cap hit based on the prorated remainder of Clemons signing bonus. If they’re in cap trouble they could divide the hit between 2013 and 2014.

Unless Clemons is truly unable to contribute, even if he needs the maximum six games on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, it is hard to envision a scenario where Clemons makes it to the field, but is worth less than the approximately $2.5 million difference  between his non-guaranteed cap hit (one third of his bonus counts against this cap this year no matter if he’s cut or not) and his remaining prorated bonus, which becomes his cap number if he’s released.

Then again, if he’s not able to make it onto the field, it’s hard to see the Seahawks going into the season without replacing him, and if they replace him, it’s hard to see them holding on to any unnecessary part of his salary.

I recognize that it may feel a bit clinical to be analyzing the salary implications of a key player whose season just ended, but I promise that if you get into a car accident that you don’t wait very long to figure out how you’re getting to work the next day. This is kind of like that.

Contract info from Rotoworld.com