SEATTLE — Unable to reach agreement on a long-term contract with the Seahawks, defensive end Frank Clark is on his way out of Seattle. The team’s best pass-rusher in 2018, Clark was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday morning for a package that included the Chiefs’ 2019 first-round pick, a 2020 second-rounder and a swap of 2019 third-rounders, a league source confirmed.
The deal means Seattle has pick Nos. 21, 29, 92, 124 and 159 in this weekend’s draft as well as 12 picks in 2020 — its own seven, the second-rounder from the Chiefs (the lower of Kansas City’s two picks in that round), and what are expected to be four compensatory picks for losing free agents this year.
Both ESPN and the NFL Network initially reported the trade as well as The Kansas City Star.
The Seahawks placed a franchise tag on Clark in March that would have paid him $17.1 million for the 2019 season, and prevented him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. But he wanted a long-term deal, and there were reports he planned to hold out if he did not get one.
With contract talks stalled — Clark was thought to want a deal that would at least approximate the $21 million per season that Dallas recently gave DeMarcus Lawrence — Seattle had been taking calls for a trade for Clark, and the Chiefs in the last 24 hours had emerged as a legitimate trade partner.
The Chiefs not only made the trade, but then gave Clark the kind of contract Seattle didn’t want to — a five-year deal worth $105.5 million, just a bit more than Lawrence received, with $63.5 million guaranteed, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
That makes Clark the third-highest paid defensive player in the NFL behind only the Bears’ Khalil Mack and the Rams’ Aaron Donald.
Clark told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he wasn’t surprised by the trade because he feels it’s part of Seattle’s recent history to not have players stick around for very long.
“They had other plans,” Clark said via Anderson. “It got to a point where Seattle had used me for everything I had for them already. At the end of the day it’s a business. … Look down the history. … When you’re playing in Seattle it’s not common that they plan to have players around for the long run. It’s obvious. It’s evident … but I’m blessed & thankful to be part of their organization. John (Schneider) and Pete (Carroll) drafted (me) back in 2015. It just sucks that we weren’t able to get something done because they knew how I felt about being in Seattle and how I felt about my future, and I feel like at the end of the day it was all ignored. But it is part of the business … and you have to play your cards right in this game.”
Schneider, the team’s general manager, had confirmed on Monday that the team was weighing trade offers for Clark.
“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 pick. That seemed like a steep price to some around the league, but over the last 24 hours or so reports had emerged that a legitimate trade market was developing for Clark, and Seattle will now add to what had been a league-low four picks heading into the 2019 NFL draft, which begins Thursday.
Clark was Seattle’s first pick in the 2015 draft, taken in the second round at No. 63 overall out of Michigan.
His selection was controversial because Clark had been kicked off the team at Michigan late in his final season after being investigated for a domestic violence incident. He later pleaded to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.
The Seahawks expressed confidence at the time that Clark would prove worth the risk, and he paid off on the field, quickly emerging as one of the team’s best overall players with 10 sacks in his second season in 2016.
He then had his best season in 2018 with 13 sacks and had 35 in four seasons with Seattle, 32 in the last three years.
Clark had wanted a new contract heading into the 2018 season, sitting out all of the team’s voluntary workouts and saying prior to training camp that he hoped to stay in Seattle, but also knew he might have to go elsewhere to get the big contract he craved.
“At the end of the day, I know if I do my job on the field, whether it’s here or anywhere else, it’s going to happen,” he said last July. “I’ve just got to do my job, and that’s my main focus.”
Clark, who turns 26 in June, had seemed to answer one big question in 2018 of whether he could still be productive without opposing offenses also having to focus on the likes of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
That he then responded with a career-best season only increased his value, not only around the league but in what Clark wanted.
But while there never appeared to be much momentum in getting a new contract done, Carroll had several times spoken enthusiastically about Clark’s progress and how the team wanted to secure him for the future.
In fact, at the NFL combine in February, Carroll had said, “Frankie will be with us, yeah,” adding, “Frankie just turned 25, he’s still a very young football player. Made a huge step this year in terms of leadership, growth and maturity. It was so obvious. I was really proud of seeing that develop for Frank. He played great too. Frank, he’s a very valuable football player and that’s the process we’re in the middle of and all that. I can’t tell you guys how that’s going to turn out, but it’s going to be positive for the Seahawks and for Frank.”
But Seattle also has some other defensive players it will need to pay — notably middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Jarran Reed — and also just re-signed quarterback Russell Wilson to a deal that will pay him $35 million a year from 2020-2023.
Schneider on Monday had called it “very challenging” to try to keep all three of Clark, Wagner and Reed. And the deal offered by the Chiefs turned out to be too enticing.
And while it will be easy for some to simply point to the Wilson deal as a reason the Seahawks couldn’t keep Clark, sources also indicated Seattle was also simply hesitant all along to give Clark the kind of deal that he ultimately got from the Chiefs.
The Chiefs were motivated to add a pass-rusher to replace Dee Ford (traded) and Justin Houston (released), and had some cap space open up when plans to give an extension to receiver Tyreek Hill were delayed when it was learned he is being investigated for battery on a juvenile.
Trading Clark, meanwhile, means Seattle loses its best outside pass-rusher, something the Seahawks already seemed to lack. But Seattle is likely confident it can pluck a pass-rusher or two from what is regarded as a deep crop of edge rushers available in this week’s draft.
Seattle also can use the added first-round pick to potentially make trades to get a pass-rusher, and can also still dip into some of the veteran free agents who remain, such as Ziggy Ansah and Nick Perry.