Look, I love Frank Clark. I think he’s a terrific player. In a vacuum – or in a world without a salary cap – I would absolutely want him to be extended and signed to a long-term contract.
But, this is 2019, and the Seahawks just re-upped Russell Wilson, so there’s not a lot of extra money to go around. Frank Clark was already counting just over $17 million on a Franchise Tag, which would increase significantly if we were to do it again in 2020. By all accounts, he was looking for over $21 million per year as a jumping-off point for a long-term extension. With Wilson already averaging over $30 million per year – upwards of $35 million for his four new years – that just wasn’t going to work. Not with Bobby Wagner’s deal expiring after this year. Not with Jarran Reed’s rookie deal expiring after this year. Not with so many of our offensive linemen nearing the end of their deals. And so on and so forth.
As always, you can’t pay everyone. This has been a problem for the Seahawks dating back to 2014, and it’s going to continue as the team keeps drafting guys who out-perform expectations.
The bottom line with Frank Clark is: do you believe he’s one of the very best defensive ends in the league? Is he capable of getting upwards of 20 sacks in a season? Maybe in the right system, but on a team like the Seahawks – where we stress defending the run as much as rushing the passer – I don’t think that was ever going to happen. On a different team, maybe he’s allowed to sell out more to rush the passer, and as a result he gets to that 20-sack mark. But, I doubt that was ever going to happen here.
As a result, the Seahawks get back the Chiefs’ first rounder in 2019 (the 29th overall selection), one of the Chiefs’ second rounders in 2020 (the lesser of the two they have now), and we swapped down in the third round this year (we go from pick 84 to pick 92).
Sure, the Chiefs get a stud, and look like surefire Super Bowl contenders, but we get $17 million to play around with. There are still veteran defensive ends available. And, maybe this increases our chances of staying at 21 and drafting the best available defensive end. It also, obviously, gives us more flexibility to trade down for more draft picks in the second and third rounds. But, just the thought of actually picking in the first round excites me to no end!
My overall thinking is, at best we were just going to run the same team back as 2018 with Clark on a huge cap number. That team, obviously, wasn’t a Super Bowl contender, and I don’t believe the extra year’s experience was enough to push the 2019 Seahawks into that stratosphere. The only way we’ll be able to improve for the long term AND the short term is to hit on a couple key draft picks, and buy low on a couple of free agents who vastly outplay their deals. The only way to do that was to acquire MORE draft picks and have MORE money with which to spend. This deal accomplishes both of those objectives; now it’s on the front office to make good.
I’d rather have Bobby and Reed extended long term over just Frank Clark, and had we extended Clark on a max deal, I know we would’ve lost at least one of those guys. Having an interior pass rusher like Reed is a much harder find, so extending him long term should be our biggest priority going forward. Keeping Bobby happy as the anchor of this defense should be our next-highest priority. Then, finding and cultivating a young stud – to go along with Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin – will be our next challenge. I, for one, look forward to it!