PHOENIX -- When the Houston Texans begin their spring workouts on April 15, coach Bill O’Brien is hopeful that franchise-tagged linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will be at NRG Stadium, ready to participate.
“Hopefully we see him on April 15. If not, it’s a voluntary program and we’ll just handle it from there,” O’Brien said at the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday.
Clowney played the 2018 season on his fifth-year option, as he and the Texans could not agree to a long-term extension. Houston typically has operated by giving veteran players an extension entering the final year of their contracts, as they did in 2017 with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
O’Brien called the challenge of coaching a player on the franchise tag -- the first time he has done it as a head coach -- “interesting,” acknowledging that it’s hard when the business side of the NFL affects what he is trying to do on the field.
“We try and do the best we can to represent our organization in the best possible way, relative to each player,” O’Brien said. “And I really have a great fondness for Jadeveon Clowney. I think he’s a good teammate, a good guy who plays hard. He made a lot of plays for us. But this is what we think is best right now for our organization.”
By using the franchise tag on Clowney, it gives the Texans and the outside linebacker more time to agree to a long-term contract. They have until July 15 to agree to a new deal or Clowney will play under the tag and a new contract would have to wait until after the season.
O’Brien has called free agency “the tough side of professional football," and said it can be hard to separate the business side from the players he is coaching.
“I don’t get too involved in the contractual stuff [or] the money," O'Brien said. "I give my opinion on the player, I talk about the value of the player to our team and then I go coach the player.
"I think that’s a tough part of it. Free agency has always been tough for me from that standpoint. You have these guys that you love coaching ... I mean, these guys have poured their heart and soul out on the field for you. And then they go to another team. You have to deal with it; that’s just the way it is. It’s not easy when you have personal relationships with guys.”