Frank Clark skipped OTAs in apparently making a statement about his desire for a new contract from the team this summer.
When Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark skipped the team’s voluntary OTAs this month (he returned for mandatory minicamp), it was clear he was making a statement about his contract situation.
And on Wednesday, the kind of contract he might want from the Seahawks likely became clearer when defensive end Danielle Hunter signed a five-year extension with the Minnesota Vikings worth up to $78 million. The deal averages $14.4 million per year and, maybe more importantly, includes $40 million in guarantees and a $15 million signing bonus, according to ESPN and other media outlets. Seattle hasn’t typically given five-year contracts like Hunter’s, more often adding four years to a current deal.
But the average per year and guarantees could set a benchmark for what Clark will want from the Seahawks, considering the similarities between the players.
Other than him being about 16 months younger, in fact, Hunter’s career largely mirrors Clark’s.
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Hunter was selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft, No. 88 overall out of LSU (Clark was taken in the second at No. 63 out of Michigan) and has 25.5 sacks in three seasons — Clark has 22. Like Clark, Hunter was entering the final year of his initial four-year rookie contract, the time when extensions for players considered key pieces of a team’s future are often signed.
Hunter jumped out of the gate a little quicker with six and 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons before notching seven last season. Clark had three as a rookie before recording 10 and nine the past two seasons (the two have had similar snap counts, as well with Hunter at 323, 682 and 740 and Clark at 392, 600 and 772, respectively).
As ESPN’s Dan Graziano noted, some other defensive ends are also likely to get extensions soon, including Houston’s Jadaveon Clowney and Oakland’s Khalil Mack. But given what they’ve accomplished, you wouldn’t think those contracts would impact anything with Clark (though you’ll rarely go wrong overestimating what a player and agent may want).
Clark is one of several players who could receive an extension from the Seahawks before the 2018 season. Free safety Earl Thomas is the most notable, though there’s no thought that anything is in the works, and a training-camp holdout could be imminent.
Left tackle Duane Brown is also thought to be a priority (though Brown said during minicamp he had no talks with the team). The Seahawks could also extend receiver Tyler Lockett (who like Clark was drafted in 2015 and is entering the final year of his rookie contract) and maybe cornerback Justin Coleman (who is playing this season on a one-year, restricted-free-agent tender). But Lockett could be a player the Seahawks will wait to play out the season before making a decision.
Clark was not made available to the media during minicamp, so it’s unclear if he has had talks with the Seahawks about his contract.
But Clark could be considered as vital to the team’s future as any of those, especially with the Seahawks in flux on the defensive line after the trade of Michael Bennett, the waiving of injured veteran Cliff Avril and the loss of Sheldon Richardson to free agency.
That leaves only Clark and tackle Jarran Reed as holdover players who have significant starting experience.
The end/pass-rush position appears particularly vulnerable with Seattle having signed former first-round washout Barkevious Mingo to be a strong-side linebacker/rush end, and giving significant reps with the starting unit during minicamp to sixth-round pick Jacob Martin, with Clark resting a hamstring injury and Dion Jordan also out after having had a recent clean-up knee surgery.
Though the hamstring injury meant Clark didn’t do a lot during minicamp and would have been limited in OTAs, coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that Clark’s OTA absence was related to his contract.
Asked if Clark sat out OTAs due to the hamstring injury, Carroll said, “Well, that’s part of it.’’
Clark’s selection in 2015 garnered a fair share of discussion because he had been kicked off the team at Michigan in his final season in 2014 due to a domestic-violence arrest, which was later pleaded down to disorderly conduct.
Clark has been a steady presence on the field for Seattle since then, missing just two games, including playing all 16 last season despite battling nagging injuries that included a midseason hamstring issue.
If Clark were to receive a contract of worth around $14 million a year, it would make him the second-highest paid Seahawk in terms of average per year behind the $21.9 million for quarterback Russell Wilson.