"All I can tell you without getting into the specifics is [it's] always about what's best for your team," O'Brien said. "What's best for your team from a value standpoint, monetarily, skill set-wise, production-wise -- all those different things. It's always going to be well thought-out and it's always going to be in the name of what is best for the team -- is this the best decision for the team?
"Any time he wants to come in and sign the tender, we can sit down and talk. ... Again, it's all about what's best for the team. So, right now, having these conversations, they can't even take place because he has to come in and sign the tender."
When O'Brien was asked whether he wants Clowney to sign his franchise tender and return to Houston, the head coach said, "It's not a matter of want."
"It's a matter of a difference of opinion in value relative to the contract," O'Brien said. "So that's really where it's at. It has nothing to do with want. ... And again, until he signs the tender, we really don't have a whole lot to talk about."
Clowney is coming off one of the best of his five seasons in the NFL. While the 2014 No. 1 pick doesn't have the staggering sack totals of other elite pass-rushers -- he has 18.5 total over the past two seasons -- he is one of the NFL's best at his position. After dealing with injuries early in his career, Clowney has become an elite run-stopper. He has three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries the past two seasons, and his 53 tackles for loss the past three seasons rank third in the NFL.
"He's a good player," O'Brien said. "He's a productive player. He's played well for us. And he's a good football player."
The Miami Dolphins are interested in trading for Clowney and recently met with him, according to ESPN's Cameron Wolfe. The Texans are interested in Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but Miami is unlikely to be willing to part with him in a trade for Clowney, Wolfe reports.
O'Brien runs the team, along with a group that includes owner Cal McNair, director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan, senior vice president Chris Olsen and executive vice president Jack Easterby after general manager Brian Gaine was fired in June. O'Brien would not talk specifically about trading Clowney, but said the team has had "conversations with every team about all different parts of our roster."
If Clowney does report, O'Brien said, when he could play in a game would depend on "what type of shape that he comes back in."
"I know that he's been working," O'Brien said. "In the conversations I've had with him, he's said that he's in the best shape of his life. That seems to be the case. And if he decides to come in and sign the tender, then we'd have to see that for ourselves. But we really think that he's been working."
And if he decides not to sign the tender, and to miss games this season?
"We're not at that point right now," O'Brien said. "But those are all things that, relative to that team of people I've talked about, that we've had conversations about, obviously with that situation but different conversations with all types of situations that are going on with our team.
"We're going to try to do what's best for the team. At the end of the day, if that's what he decides to do, I would say the ball is in his court on that one."
Schefter: Clowney trade doesn't happen until tender is signed
Adam Schefter breaks down the complications holding up a potential Jadeveon Clowney trade, including him needing to sign his franchise tender.