While discussion of the future of quarterback Russell Wilson dominated Seahawks news this week, Frank Clark’s status for 2019 and beyond also remains a big question for the team to settle.
And what could be viewed as a template for what Clark may ask for to sign a long-term deal with Seattle may have been set Friday afternoon when Dallas agreed to a five-year deal worth $105 million with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who will also get $31.1 million in cash in the first year of the contract, the most for any defensive player in NFL history.
Clark, certainly, seemed to be sending a signal of some sorts when he retweeted news of Lawrence’s signing with an emoji of two men dancing.
Like Clark, Lawrence had been given a franchise tag by the Cowboys last month. Lawrence’s would have paid him $20.5 million since it was his second straight year getting a tag.
Clark’s would pay him $17.1 million for the 2019 season were he to sign it and the two sides not agree to a long-term deal.
Clark, though, wants a long-term contract, and there have been reports he will not sign the tag, and will not report to participate in any activities with the Seahawks until he has multiyear contract. The Seahawks start their offseason program on April 15 — the program is technically voluntary until a mandatory minicamp in mid-June. And unless he has a signed contract, Clark is not likely to be around for it — he skipped voluntary workouts last year, as well, when he was hoping that the Seahawks might pre-empt things and give him an extension then.
Clark certainly can — and likely will — make a case that he deserves a similar contract to that of Lawrence.
Lawrence, who has been in the league a year longer than Clark, has 34 sacks in five seasons with the Cowboys. Clark has 35 sacks in four seasons with Seattle.
Clark, who is also more than a year younger than Lawrence, is also coming off a year that is statistically just a little bit better in the marquee pass-rushing stats— he had 13 sacks in 2018 to Lawrence’s 10.5, and 27 quarterback hits to Lawrence’s 23.
According to Albert Breer of SI.com, Lawrence will receive $31.1 million in cash in the first year of his contract, and then totals of $48 million and $65 million through years two and three. And according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the $31.1 million in year one is the most for any non-quarterback in NFL history.
So yeah, the challenge for the Seahawks in re-signing Clark certainly hasn’t gotten easier.
Clark’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, told ESPN.com last fall that he expected to get a deal for Clark the same as Lawrence and other top pass-rushers.
“I do think Frank Clark is every bit as good of a pass-rusher as Mack, Jadeveon Clowney, DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah or anybody else at the top, and that’s not taking anything away from those guys,” Burkhardt said, according to ESPN. “The metrics and analytics bear that out on a per-snap basis. I’ve spoken to many offensive lineman around the league who will tell you the same thing.”
Clark has received just under $4 million so far in his Seattle career and while playing on the tag would represent a significant raise, Clark has let it be known he is hoping for the kind of life-altering and precedent-setting payday that Lawrence just received.
Clark and Lawrence were two of four edge rushers who received tags, the others being Dee Ford and Clowney.
Ford, who had been classified as a linebacker and would have gotten the lower $15.4 million on the tag rather than the higher number for an end, was then traded from the Chiefs to the 49ers, with whom he then signed a five-year, $85.5 million contract, which might have been more along the lines of what the Seahawks were hoping to do with Clark, assuming they wanted to give a contract for that length — the Seahawks have typically signed players for no longer than four years.
Clowney has yet to sign a long-term deal with Houston after also being officially classified as a linebacker and getting the slightly lower tag number than Clark.
When the four were tagged there was a sense around the league that each was waiting for the other to sign long-term deals to help set floors and precedents.
With two of the four now in, both Clark and the Seahawks have a firmer grasp of the market.
Now to see if they can get a deal done.
The deadline for players who have received tags to sign long-term contracts is July 15. After that, tagged players can only play under the terms of the tag for the one season with no more negotiating allowed until after the season.
That the Seahawks might have difficulty getting a long-term deal done with Clark has led to rumors that Seattle could listen to trade offers for him. Lawrence’s deal may not quiet those any — especially with the NFL draft looming April 25-27 — unless or until the Seahawks and Clark get a deal done.