New Orleans Saints helmet during NFL game
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While the Tennessee Titans signed Jadeveon Clowney, they likely would have missed out on the prized edge rusher if not for the NFL reportedly stepping in to block a sign-and-trade by the New Orleans Saints.

Clowney’s free-agent saga dragged on for months until this weekend when it reached a wild conclusion. After firing his agent and weighing offers from multiple teams, the Pro Bowl linebacker finally signed with the Titans.

However, he might have been playing in New Orleans this season if the NFL didn’t step in to block an unprecedented move.

NFL blocked Saints from sign-and-trade for Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney, who long desired to sign with a Super Bowl contender, remained a free agent entering the weekend before Week 1 of the regular season. After turning down offers all offseason, the 27-year-old was finally ready to choose between the Titans and Saints.

However, New Orleans had a problem. Sitting just $3 million over the salary cap, the Saints couldn’t afford to match the one-year, $15 million offer Tennessee made. So, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, the Saints came up with a creative solution.

In what could have been the first sign-and-trade in NFL history, the Cleveland Browns would have signed Clowney to a one-year contract worth $15 million. Cleveland then would have traded Clowney, after paying him the $5 million signing bonus, to New Orleans for a 2021 second-round pick and a player to offload salary, per NFL.com’s report.

The historic move would have allowed the Saints to squeeze Clowney into their salary cap, further boosting one of the league’s best defenses. The Browns, the team rumored to be involved, were on board with the sign-and-trade and both clubs sent it to the NFL for approval.

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Unfortunately for New Orleans, the front office learned on Saturday that the NFL would likely not approve the transaction. As a result, the Saints could only send revised offers to Clowney and none of them matched what Tennessee offered.

We’ve seen the Browns make a similar trade in the past, taking on Brock Osweiler’s contract from the Houston Texans in 2016 in exchange for receiving a second-round pick. However, in the NFL’s eyes, this might have been viewed as a strictly financial trade that violated the purpose of free-agent signings.

It certainly would have been a wild story before the regular season and adding Clowney might have made New Orleans the Super Bowl favorites in the NFC. Instead, the Saints will have to roll with what they’ve got. Fortunately, it still might be enough to win the Super Bowl.