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O'Brien: Clowney negotiations 'will be interesting'

The Houston Texans ensured Jadeveon Clowney wouldn't hit the open market by designating the pass rusher as a franchise player on March 4.

The two sides have until July 15 to hammer out a multiyear deal, but the real work behind the scenes in the negotiations process begins now to ensure Clowney remains in Houston for the long haul.

"It will be interesting," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien told reporters Tuesday during the coaches breakfast at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. "We try to do the best that we can to represent our organization in the best way possible relative to each player. JD has been a really, really good player for us every year. I really have a great fondness for Jadeveon Clowney. I think he's a good teammate, good guy, plays hard, made a lot of plays for us.

"This is what we think is best right now for our organization under the spirit of the tag where you try to continue to negotiate with JD and his representative. Obviously, you don't want him walking away in free agency, so that's the spirit of the franchise tag to kind of give you some more time to negotiate. That's what we're doing."

Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, has come on the past two seasons after dealing with injuries to start his career in Houston, so the Texans utilizing the franchise tag on him didn't come as a big surprise.

The 26-year-old Clowney has totaled 18.5 sacks and 42 quarterback hits since 2017 to become an exceptional complementary piece opposite of defensive end J.J. Watt. On his five seasons with the Texans, Clowney has appeared in 62 games with 55 starts and made the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons (2016-18).

What happens next in the negotiations will fall almost exclusively on the business side of football, and O'Brien told reporters he doesn't get too involved in that process.

Instead, the Texans head coach said he provides opinions on players and what they mean to the team, and then coaches them.

The Texans kick off the start of Phase I of the voluntary offseason workout program on April 15. But O'Brien understands it might be a little while before he has another opportunity to see Clowney short of a long-term deal or Clowney signing the franchise tag.

"Hopefully, we will see him on April 15," O'Brien said. "If not, it's a voluntary program and we will handle it from there."

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