CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney can’t wait to bring to his hometown Carolina Panthers the prove-it mode he has been in since his falling-out with the Cleveland Browns at the end of the 2022 season.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection from nearby Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Wednesday signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Panthers that could reach up to $24 million with incentives based on sacks.

Clowney, 31, earned the deal after tying his career high in sacks (9.5) last season in what he called his “Kobe [Bryant] year” with the Baltimore Ravens.

“That was very important, really for myself because I already knew I could play the game and make plays,” Clowney said during a Zoom call on Friday. “I tell people all the time if I play in 16, 17 games, it’s going to look like a Pro Bowl season. That’s all I got to do, is just be out there playing.

“I know I can make the plays no matter what team I’m on. I’ve just got to be available and take care of myself. The older I get the more I figure out how to stay healthier.”

Because of injuries, Clowney hadn’t played a full season before last year since 2017, when he had 9.5 sacks for the Houston Texans, who selected him with the top pick of the 2014 draft.

After wearing No. 90 most of his career, he chose 24 last season to symbolize what he hoped would be a year of growth after having only two sacks in an injury-plagued 2022 season with the Browns. He says his reasoning was similar to Bryant’s when he switched from No. 8 to 24 with the Lakers in 2006 after Los Angeles moved on from star center Shaquille O’Neal.

“That was my Kobe Bryant year, the return of the killer,” Clowney said. “I said Kobe [year] because when I was in Cleveland a lot of stuff happened my last year there when I didn’t have my best season.

“They put out that article about me saying all this about what was going on.”

In an article published in, Clowney said the team was favoring star defensive end Myles Garrett over him.

“Let’s say it. Let’s be honest,” Clowney said in the article. “[It seems to me] they don’t want me to outplay nobody.”

The Browns disciplined Clowney for his comments, sending him home before a practice prior to the season finale at the Steelers and leaving him in Cleveland for the game.

Clowney played last season for the Ravens on a one-year, $2.5 million deal.

“Like I said, the lady with the pen gets the last say, so I never really got to respond to that or say anything about what was said,” Clowney said. “I just swallowed that and went to work and got back to grinding and working out.”

His 9.5 sacks in 2023 made Clowney a hot commodity in free agency, particularly for the Panthers after they traded two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns to the New York Giants.

The New York Jets also tried to sign Clowney to help anchor a defense that would take some of the pressure off their offense as future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from injury.

Clowney chose Carolina in part because he grew up only 25 miles from Charlotte, played his college football at South Carolina just 90 miles away, and idolized longtime Panther and 2024 Hall of Fame inductee Julius Peppers. He also believes the Panthers, despite six straight losing seasons and coming off an NFL-worst 2-15 record, have the talent to make a run at the playoffs.

He hopes to help bring five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore, his teammate at South Pointe High and South Carolina, back to help the cause.

Clowney said he and Gilmore talked before he signed his new deal. He said Gilmore told him he has been trying to get the Panthers to sign him after he spent the 2023 season with the Dallas Cowboys.

“I think we can turn this thing around and have some fun here,” Clowney said. “I’m looking for something great for this upcoming season.

“The division [NFC South] was tight last year regardless of what people say. It’s no reason to think the Panthers can’t come out on top of the division this year and make the playoffs.”

Clowney first asked for No. 24 when arriving at Carolina, but after being told No. 7, which he wore in high school and college, was available he chose that number because 24 already had served its purpose.

“I said I just need one opportunity to show these people I still can do this at a high level and I’m not the guy they make me out to be,” Clowney said of last season. “That’s all I wanted to do that whole offseason, prove that to people.

“Baltimore gave me that opportunity to come out there and play.”

Now, Clowney added, he’s having a homecoming that’s “allowing me to live out my dream.”


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