The 2018 offseason marked a turning point for Seattle, with the Seahawks saying goodbye to most of the faces that brought back the team’s first championship in franchise history back in 2013. Even after losing so much talent, the hawks were still able to return to the playoffs behind a new commitment to the running game, the arm of Russell Wilson, and a defense that was not perfect at the beginning of the year but rounded into form behind surprise performances out of young players and great veteran leadership. One of the vets that shined the brightest for Seattle in 2018 was Frank Clark, with a career year that established him as one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Clark didn’t miss a single game in route to recording 34 solo tackles, 14 sacks, four forced fumbles, and an interception, all of which were career highs. Now Frank’s contract is set to expire and Seattle will, more than likely, place the franchise tag on him to retain his services and continue to negotiate a long-term deal during the season, but should they really work to keep him in Seattle long-term? With major extensions coming up for Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner next season, the smart move for Seattle is to get what they can out of Clark under the tag and then let him walk.
As insane as it sounds to let go of one of the leagues best pass rushers in their prime, in a league so predicated on the passing game, investing in edge rushers has not gone well for the rest of the NFL. When you take a look at the 15 highest paid edge rushers in the NFL, 13 of them either missed the playoffs or had a quarterback still on their rookie contract in 2018. Most people would point to Seattle’s sack numbers as a team as the leading reason to retain Clark, with his 14 sacks representing a third of the Seahawks’ total in 2018, but total sacks are not an indicator of team success. In 2018, looking at the top 11 teams in terms of sacks, 7 of them missed the playoffs, with the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl ranked next to last in the entire league. The Seahawks would have to make Clark one of the highest paid players at his position to keep him and with Russell Wilson looking for his second big contract, the odds would not be in Seattle’s favor in terms of returning to their perennial playoff status if they make that investment in the young star.
The Seahawks are in a perfect position to replace Clark’s production if they let him go next year through this year’s draft. All of the top analysts are saying this draft is deepest at both interior and exterior defensive line, both of which are needs for Seattle, but Clark’s position specifically will be flush with talent. With the Seahawks only holding 4 picks at the moment, they will more than likely trade down or out of the first round, but when you evaluate the type of talent that is projected to still be available at the end of the first and the beginning of the second round is exciting. Players like Jachai Polite out of Florida and Jaylon Ferguson from Louisiana Tech can step in immediately and have an impact for the Seahawks in 2019 and take over when Clark is gone in 2020. Even if Seattle doesn’t select an edge rusher to supplant Clark in the first or early second rounds, Clark himself was a late second-round draft pick himself and there are plenty of gems throughout the draft to target with the picks already have and the ones they hopefully collect through some classic John Schneider maneuvering.
Frank Clark definitely deserves to be paid like a top-five defensive end in this league, not only because his numbers compare with the absolute best, he has proven that he can stay on the field as well, only missing 2 games in four seasons in Seattle, but the Seahawks can’t be left holding the bag. The rest of the league has proven that Clark’s position is not worth the kind of investment it would take to keep him with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner leading this team into the future. With some extra cap room this season, the hawks can absorb the $17 million hit that the tag would cost them in the short-term, but when it comes to keeping him in the emerald city for the long hall, Seattle should pass and let him get paid by a team with less financial restrictions.