The Houston Texans have dangled a first-round draft choice and Pro Bowl edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney in a proposed trade for Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but the Dolphins have asked for more than that, according to two league sources.
According to one person briefed on the discussions, the Dolphins have asked the Texans for another high draft pick in addition to Clowney and a first-round pick.
Clowney has missed all of Houston’s training camp and preseason, and Texans coach Bill O’Brien is desperate to add a left tackle of Tunsil’s quality and might be amenable to including two high picks.
Houston has been relentless in its pursuit of Tunsil and has been working to come up with something to the Dolphins’ liking, according to the source.
Asked Thursday night if Tunsil might be traded, coach Brian Flores offered no assurances that he wouldn’t be.
“There’s no trade in place for him,” Flores said, going on to say that his conversations with Tunsil are private.
Tunsil said after the game that he wishes he could talk but is not in a position to do so right now. “You know me, I’d talk all day,” he said.
The Dolphins conveyed to the Tunsil camp recently that they aren’t actively shopping Tunsil in trade talks but also indicated that teams have called to inquire and gave no assurances that he would not be traded.
Miami has received multiple offers for Tunsil, but the sentiment internally - at this point - is to consider trading him only if multiple high draft picks are offered in return.
And unless the Dolphins have a change of heart, that appears to be the case with Houston, even though Clowney - a three-time Pro Bowler - is also part of the proposal.
But even if the Dolphins and Texans strike a deal - which wouldn’t be surprising - Clowney still needs to sign his tender in order to be traded. And there’s no certainty when or if he will do that, though he stands to lose $940,000 every game he misses.
Under terms of the tag, Clowney will make $15.97 million in 2019 once he signs it. But he could make as much as $17.13 million if the team trading for him authorizes tagging him as a defensive end, which carries a higher price tag than linebacker. Clowney previously filed a grievance hoping to get the tag switched to defensive end.
The Dolphins, with $26 million in cap space, could accommodate either tag.
As colleague Armando Salguero reported, the Dolphins consider themselves the leader in the Clowney sweepstakes.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores met with Clowney recently, and The Houston Chronicle reported that the Texans have talked to the Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks, Jets and Redskins about Clowney but that the most significant talks have been with Miami.
The Chronicle reported late Thursday that “Clowney is steadfast that he won’t sign his $15.967 million tender unless he is going to a preferred destination like the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.”
Clowney, 26, had 47 tackles and 9 sacks last season and has 18.5 sacks over the past two years. If the Dolphins acquire him, they can attempt to sign him to a longterm contract as early as next offseason. They would be able to retain his rights for at least 2019 and 2020 if they apply the franchise tag in 2020, should the sides not agree to a longterm deal.
Tunsil has been a three-year starter for the Dolphins and is considered one of the game’s best young offensive linemen.
Tunsil, 25, is under contract for this season at $2.1 million in the final year of his four-year rookie deal, and the Dolphins exercised his 2020 option for $10.3 million, which is non-guaranteed but assuredly will be exercised by Miami unless that’s replaced by a longterm contract.
The Dolphins broached a contract extension with Tunsil’s camp earlier this summer and the sides had discussions but tabled further talks until next offseason. Those contract talks are not considered the driving force behind the Dolphins’ willingness to listen on Tunsil proposals.
If the Dolphins trade Tunsil, they could either acquire their future left tackle in next year’s draft - where they would potentially have 14 picks - or by signing any high-priced free agent with cap space that could exceed $80 million, even with Clowney’s potential addition.
O’Brien, after the game, said he had no update on Clowney, calling the situation “unique” and adding that what happens next all depends on when he signs the tender.
Miami Herald sportswriter Adam Beasley contributed to this report.