As rumors about Frank Clark’s future continue to swirl, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Monday the team will continue to listen to trade offers for the fifth-year defensive end.
Schneider also said during the team’s annual predraft news conference that it will be “very challenging’’ for the Seahawks to keep all three of Clark, linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who can all be free agents following the 2019 season.
“Feasible,’’ Schneider said when asked if the Seahawks could re-sign all three to long-term deals. “Very challenging.’’
Since this is four days before the draft, a time when every word is parsed for meaning, it’s worth recalling that when Schneider was asked a similar question three weeks ago in an interview on ESPN 710 Seattle, and before the Seahawks re-signed quarterback Russell Wilson, Schneider had seemed a little more optimistic about being able to retain the team’s key players.
Asked then about being able to keep Wilson, Wagner and Clark, Schneider said “it’s challenging because then you’ve got to compensate (by not paying as much) in other areas.”
But in that interview, he then noted that many wondered back in the beginnings of the Legion of Boom days if the Seahawks would be able to keep that team together long enough to make a significant run, which he said the Seahawks did.
“We just continued to work our process and worked through it and worked out (then) and I see it happening the same way (now),” Schneider said April 1.
But since then, the Seahawks have re-signed Wilson to a deal that will pay him $35 million a year from 2020-23 while Clark’s price might have only gone up with Dallas’ re-signing of end DeMarcus Lawrence to a deal paying him $21 million a season.
Seattle placed a franchise tag on Clark in March that will pay him $17.1 million for the 2019 season. But he’d like a long-term deal and might want a contract similar to the one Lawrence received.
Wagner, meanwhile, might want $15 million to $17 million a year or so to stay and keeping Reed might reach at least $10 million a year.
Schneider wouldn’t answer a question of whether there has been progress in contract talks with Clark.
But as he did last week, Schneider acknowledged the team will consider all options when it comes to Clark, including a trade.
“This time (of year), and the trade deadline, there’s some speculation about a lot of players,’’ Schneider said. “We’re involved in a lot of deals. We take a lot of pride in that. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t listening to everybody. I get it, people need to speculate this time of year. … We take a lot of pride in having relationships through the league and understanding what’s going on as much as we possibly can.”
An ESPN report over the weekend stated the Seahawks would want a package that would include at least a first-round choice, and to many observers, that’s a return that might not be easy to get because any team dealing for Clark would also then have to sign him to a long-term deal.
But teams are inquiring about Clark. The Kansas City Star reported Monday that four teams have called the Seahawks about Clark, including the Chiefs. The Athletic, meanwhile, reported that the Jets have interested but were told that Seattle would want it first pick, which is number three overall. And Albert Breer of SI.com reported that the Seahawks want a first AND a second round pick for Clark.
Logistically, were a trade to happen it might have to occur before Thursday, or at least before the draft begins Thursday, because Clark would have to sign his franchise tag first — he has yet to sign the tag and it’s possible he might not until training camp, or even after. Clark only gets paid once he signs the tag, all of which would go on Seattle’s 2019 salary cap. Schneider said last week he doesn’t expect Clark to hold out, but it seems likely the earliest Seattle would see him is in training camp unless he signs a long-term deal. The Seahawks can negotiate with Clark until July 15, after which he can play only on the tag number with Seattle, with no negotiations allowed until after the season.
Seattle could just decide to hang on to Clark and let him play out his contract and see what happens and if a deal can be struck after the 2019 season, similar to the team’s stance last season with Earl Thomas, who also was the subject of trade rumors heading into the 2018 season.
In an answer about the value of pass-rushers, Carroll seemed to indicate the Seahawks are not eager to just give Clark away.
Carroll called pass-rushers “the hardest, most unique player to find — big, fast, agile, athletic as he can be, to rush the passer. It’s why people reach so far to find those guys. They’re so rare. I don’t think it’s changed. You always need somebody to come off the edge and cause problems for the passing game.’’
But if the Seahawks value Clark, how much other teams also value him and are willing to give up for him now looms as the critical question with the draft set to begin Thursday.
Here are four other things we learned Monday:
NO ETA FOR DOUG BALDWIN’S RETURN
Carroll said receiver Doug Baldwin is at the VMAC working on his recovery from sports hernia surgery earlier this month, after having had surgeries earlier this offeason on his knee and shoulder.
But as both he and Schneider have done previously, Carroll sounded a cautionary tone on when to expect Baldwin to return, stating no clear timeline.
“Yeah he is (here),’’ Carroll said. “He’s working at it every day. He is here in the building, and I didn’t see him today but he was here and he is working at it and making good progress. It’s a long haul.’’
The uncertainty over Baldwin’s future has led to speculation that the team could look to take a receiver in the draft this week.
If they do — and how high — might tell a lot about the team’s expectations for Baldwin in 2019.
JODY ALLEN ‘VERY EXCITED’ ABOUT HER FIRST DRAFT
Carroll and Schneider revealed that after their Monday news conference they planned to meet with Jody Allen to brief her on the team’s draft plans.
Jody Allen is now the chair of her brother Paul’s estate, which owns the Seahawks. Paul Allen died last October.
Schneider said Paul Allen tended to watch the first round of the draft in the team’s war room but then often didn’t attend later rounds.
He said he didn’t know what Jody Allen’s plans were other than that she is “very excited, very into it.’’
Many in the organization had not met Jody Allen when Paul Allen passed away, leaving some immediate uncertainty about her plans. But the team has since formalized its new ownership structure and stated that the team is not for sale and Jody Allen has been said to be actively involved in big decisions, such as Wilson’s re-signing.
PARED-DOWN DRAFT BOARD
A year ago, in the wake of a few drafts that yielded more mixed results than the memorable 2010-12 classes that provided the foundation of the Super Bowl teams, Schneider said the Seahawks had altered their draft process somewhat to cut down their list of draftable players to a more manageable number.
Schneider has said the team begins with 1,200 potential draftees, cuts that to about 300 and then gets to about 150 players by draft day that the team would feel comfortable selecting.
“Yeah, it’s helped,’’ Schneider said. “It’s made it much more clean. We kept adding more and more players (in previous years), it seemed like. What we’ve done is, we’ve done a better job categorizing what a Seahawk player looks like, and would you draft him or not? Not making any excuses for players. We’ve taken guys who are really free agents — we always focus on accentuating the positives in players. And so what we ended up doing is we took guys who were over on the free-agent board and putting them in the seventh round. We just kind of started accumulating in that way. We’ve pulled off of that.”
The Seahawks enter the draft with just four selections, the fewest in the NFL, and what would be the fewest in team history if that’s all they end up using (five is the previous fewest, in 1994 and 1997 and Seattle has not had fewer than eight since Carroll and Schneider arrived in 2010).
But that’s a big “if’’ as the Seahawks have regularly traded down to acquire more picks in later rounds, and no one will be surprised if Seattle again figures out a way to add some draft capital.
“It’s not fun,’’ Schneider said of having just four picks, then noting that Seattle traded three over the last two seasons for Duane Brown (second), Brett Hundley (sixth) and Shalom Luani (seventh). “But we build our team all the way through the year. And that’s just part of the process. Not having the six and the seven stems from having a backup quarterback and a core special-teams player, and obviously the second-round pick is a Pro Bowl left tackle. It’s just part of the process. We’ll continue to do it when we go the 53-man (roster) this year.”
One thing that might help the Seahawks navigate this draft is the knowledge that Seattle could have as many as 11 picks in 2020 thanks to having all seven of its original picks at the moment plus likely getting four as compensation for free agents lost this spring.
Schneider acknowledged it was an emphasis during the free agent signing period this year to try to accumulate comp picks in 2020 if the Seahawks could. Seattle can use those picks to make trades this year.
“I think we were very disciplined in our (free agent signing) approach this year,’’ Schneider said. “I think it definitely helps, when you are talking about moving around the board. Yeah, it helps. It’s just another nugget out there for people.”