Jadeveon Clowney only had one goal in mind when he entered the 2021 offseason as one of the top players available in free agency.
Clowney, an eight-year veteran, wanted to win. He was searching for his fourth team in as many years, and he wanted to take his time finding the right fit. Injuries and preseason trades have sent Clowney, who totaled 29 sacks in his first five years of the NFL but just three sacks in the last two seasons, on a roller coaster of career destinations, and he wasn't going to rush his decision.
On Wednesday, nearly one month after free agency opened, Clowney's ride officially came to a stop.
He chose the Cleveland Browns, who made it clear to him in two visits to Berea they could help him achieve what he wanted most from his next team.
"They're definitely a winning team," Clowney said Wednesday in his introductory press conference. "(Winning) brings out the best in everybody on the team, and I think this staff tries to do that. Winning is definitely going to do that."
Clowney, the first overall pick of the 2014 draft, paid two visits to the team headquarters before officially inking his new contract, but he knew almost instantly what the Browns were trying to build in 2021.
The 2020 record, 11-5, suggests they're ready for another run to the playoffs. Clowney knew that already, but in meetings with his future coaches and staff members, he felt as though they all were on the same plan on how to get there.
"I think it was pretty laid back and straightforward," Clowney said. "The coaching staff was pretty laid back and I felt like they knew what they were doing, where they were going and where the organization was standing. They know where to get where they want to go, and that was something I wanted to be a part of."
Now, he's officially a part of it — and firmly entrenched with a heavy role in a revamped defense.
Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowler, became the sixth defensive free-agent signing the Browns have made this offseason and joins a defensive end room already anchored with an All-Pro in Myles Garrett and 2017 first-round pick Takkarist McKinley. All three players could see a considerable amount of snaps in 2021 and turn Cleveland's defensive line into one of the best in the league.
Garrett, in particular, was an intriguing teammate for Clowney, who believes his presence on the other end of the line will give him easy access to the backfield.
Clowney admitted he'd been frustrated by opponents double-teaming him in recent seasons, but with Garrett on the other side, opposing offenses will have to make a decision each play about which rusher requires an extra blocker.
That won't be an easy decision to make.
"I've been getting double-teamed an awful lot in this league," Clowney said. "So I'm looking forward to playing with someone dominant on the other side who can draw a double team and maybe make me go one-on-one."
But the defensive line won't be the only position group loaded with talent. The five other free-agent acquisitions the Browns finalized for this offseason will likely provide a significant upgrade to a defense that finished 21st in the league last season. S John Johnson III and CB Troy Hill are durable, consistent playmakers for the secondary while LB Anthony Walker, DT Malik Jackson and McKinley are veteran forces for the front seven.
Clowney was the next piece of the offseason puzzle, which will be even more complete following the 2021 NFL draft — where the Browns currently hold nine picks.
"I just feel like we've got to play as one unit and get to know each other," Clowney said. "We have a lot of new pieces, and we have to have a feel for each other. We know how we have to play, and that will come during training camp when we'll all be together."
The group already looked special before Clowney's addition, which is why he wanted to pick Cleveland as his next home. The Browns' offseason moves have propelled them even higher as one of the most talent-filled teams in the league, and Clowney wanted to be part of it.
With Clowney, the Browns can meet their goal of getting back to the playoffs.
With the Browns, Clowney can meet his goal of joining a team poised to win plenty of games.
"It's a great feeling coming to a team that's already on the 'up,'" Clowney said. "Hopefully, we can go on that winning train, and everybody just wants to go out, dominate and make plays."
Check out photos of Jadeveon Clowney