Never a fulltime starter until he arrived in Seattle, Clemons has produced back-to-back 11-sack seasons, and played better against the run than you might expect from a 254-pound rush-end.
Now, Clemons will have a new contract to match his on-field performance. He officially agreed to terms on Tuesday, the team announced. The agreement was first reported late Monday by ESPN.com and later confirmed by Clemons’ agent.
“Pete (Carroll), myself and the entire Seahawks family are very pleased to reward a player that has been a consistent difference-maker since we acquired him,” general manager John Schneider said in the release that accompanied the announcement.
The Seahawks ranked among the Top 10 in the NFL is average points allowed and average yards allowed last season, and Clemons’ relentless efforts from the “Leo” end spot in coach Pete Carroll’s defense were significant in the defense cracking the Top 10 for the first time since 1997 – and only the sixth time in franchise history.
The last end to produce double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons for the Seahawks was Michael Sinclair in 1997 (12) and 1998 (a league-leading 16.5). Over the past two seasons, only seven players in the league have more sacks that Clemons – the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware (35), Vikings’ Jared Allen (33), Eagles’ Jason Babin (30.5), Chiefs’ Tamba Hali (26.5), Ravens’ Terrell Suggs (25) and Falcons’ John Abraham and Dolphins’ Cameron Wake (22.5 each).
But the Seahawks need more than Clemons to “take another step,” as Carroll has put it. He had one-third of the team’s 33 sacks last season, when the other linemen combined for 10. That’s why tackle/end
The key to the Seahawks taking that next step as far as pressuring and sacking opposing quarterbacks, however, remains Clemons – especially in a season where the defense will face Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Tom Brady (Patriots), Tony Romo (Cowboys) and Matthew Stafford (Lions). Each ranked among the Top 5 in passer rating last season.
“Clem had a great year again rushing the passer, two solid contributing years for us,” Carroll said during his wrap session for the 2011 season. “But we need more than that. That’s an area that really needs to improve for us to take another step.”
Clemons, who will turn 31 in October, also has played with the Washington Redskins (2004-05) and Oakland Raiders (2007) in addition to the Eagles (2008-09). But his previous high for sacks was eight, in his one season with the Raiders. He also has produced career-highs in tackles with the Seahawks – 51 last season and 48 in 2010.
Since coming to Seattle, his skill set has been an ideal match for those needed to fill the “Leo” spot in Carroll’s defense.
“When I got here, I told coach, ‘My thing is, I just want to play,’ ” Clemons said last season. “Things just changed once I got here. They gave me an opportunity to come out and play, and I just took advantage of it.”
His teammates have noticed.
“Clem is a phenomenal end,” said
“And when you’re playing with a guy like that, you want to hold up your end.”
Any worries that Clemons will become complacent with his new contract? The look that washed across Bryant’s face screamed, “Please.”
“Clem is underrated. But that’s what he fuels off of. But those of us in this locker room, we hold him in high regard and we know what he brings to the table. He’s non-stop, mean, tough.”