HOUSTON — Jadeveon Clowney has his rookie contract with the Houston Texans. Now he needs to learn a new position.
The top overall choice in last month’s draft, Clowney signed a four-year contract with the Texans on Friday. Houston has an option for a fifth year, as in all NFL contracts with first-round picks under the current collective bargaining agreement.
A star defensive end since entering South Carolina in 2011, Clowney will become an outside linebacker with the Texans. Rest assured he will have plenty of pass rushing duties, but Houston plans to use him in a stand-up position.
The Texans are moving to a 3-4 alignment and have 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt as one of their ends.
"For any rookie it's very difficult to make the jump from college to pro. It doesn't really matter if they were drafted No. 1 or undrafted, they're all trying to learn and keep pace with the veterans," new head coach Bill O'Brien said during a recent team workout. "I think he's doing a decent job of and he's working hard at it."
Clowney had 130 tackles, including 47 for losses, and 24 sacks in three seasons at South Carolina. He also set a school record by forcing nine fumbles in his career.
After both his freshman and sophomore years with the Gamecocks, Clowney was considered a surefire high pick in the draft had he been eligible. He was an All-American in 2012, but his performance dipped last season, and there were questions whether Houston would select him first overall.
Clowney's work ethic had been questioned, and critics wondered if he played things safe as a junior to avoid injury.
But his sheer talent, size (6-foot-5, 266 pounds) and potential were too good for the Texans to ignore.
"I'm here to learn the playbook and get the ball rolling with the Houston Texans and show what I've got on the field," he said following a practice session last month.
Clowney is the third top overall pick in team history. Houston selected quarterback David Carr in 2002 and defensive end Mario Williams in 2006.
Houston has signed nine of its 10 draft picks, with only UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, the first choice in the second round, still unsigned.