A year after helping the Seahawks win their first championship, Chris Clemons watched Super Bowl XLIX while on vacation in the Caribbean, having finished his first season with Jacksonville following his release from Seattle. The thought of a return to the Seahawks crossed his mind in the third quarter when fellow defensive end Cliff Avril went down with a concussion, which helped swing the game in New England’s favor.
“After Cliff got hurt, I was like, ‘Man, what if,'” Clemons told “Brock and Salk” on Monday. “Two years later, that ‘what if’ became a reality to me, and now I’m going back.”
That became all but official last week when the two sides agreed to terms on a deal, the details of which are not yet known. Clemons is the fifth player that Seattle has signed in free agency this year. It’s just as much of a reunion as it is an addition given Clemons’ history in Seattle, where he played from 2010 to 2013.
Clemons was a starter during his first stint with the Seahawks, recording 38 sacks over his four seasons in Seattle. At this stage of his career – Clemons turns 35 in October and is coming off a three-sack season – the Seahawks presumably envision him as a rotational player who can back up Avril and rush the passer in their sub packages, which are the two roles he mentioned when asked about what he can bring.
“Wherever coaches need me,” he said. “That’s where I’m willing to play. That’s what I’m willing to do.”
While he’s older – the oldest non-specialist on Seattle’s roster by four years – Clemons said he’s also wiser.
“I still have that edge, I still play with that chip on my shoulder,” said Clemons, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2003. “I just play a lot smarter now, just knowing the game and allowing the game to come to me now instead of just going after it and putting yourself in a situation to where you make so many different mistakes at playing reckless.”
The Seahawks are hoping that Clemons can impart some of that wisdom on pass-rusher Frank Clark, a second-round pick in 2015 who figures to be in line for more playing time after a solid and occasionally spectacular rookie season. Clemons said that was a conversation he had with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
“It’s just about him settling down and getting in the playbook and understanding what they actually want from him,” Clemons said of Clark. “I think that will be something that I actually do have a conversation with him about and get him to understand what it’s going to take to actually win a Super Bowl. I know that he can be a great asset for the team. … He’s a hell of a player; he’s just got to put it all together.”
While the seeds of Clemons’ return may have been planted in February of 2015, it took his release from Jacksonville, an opening in Seattle as well as some recruiting from a pair of once and future teammates to help make it happen.
Clemons said Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett called him after he was released in March, halfway through a four-year, $17.5 million contract. He said they had a few “very, very very intriguing” conversations about another Super Bowl run. In need of a pass-rusher after losing Bruce Irvin in free agency, the Seahawks brought Clemons in for a physical. He then made his decision to sign with Seattle after a dinner at his house with Bennett and Bennett’s wife.
Clemons said he doesn’t know if he would have ended up back in Seattle had Bennett and Sherman not reached out to him.
“I’m grateful that they called me,” he said, “because they never forgot about me just like I never forgot about them.”