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Frank Clark remains in the company of the elite

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Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With the 2018 NFL regular season in the books, it’s now time to start taking a look back at some of the offseason predictions made surrounding the Seattle Seahawks and its players, and where better to start than with a quick look at the numbers for elite pass rusher Frank Clark.

Back in April I took a look at where Clark stood after three seasons in the league compared to other defensive linemen, and came to the conclusion that he was pretty good. Specifically, I pointed out that his production through three years put him in elite company, so let’s take a brief look at where he stands now that his fourth regular season is in the books.

Clark’s 14.0 sack 2018 campaign saw him finish sixth in the NFL and third in the NFC in sacks, and it did little to change my belief that Clark is an elite pass rusher. In fact, if anything, it made me even more convinced that he is indeed elite.

As I looked at in the April piece, the 22.0 sacks that Clark recorded through his first three seasons put him in a five way tie for the 81st most sacks in NFL history (or at least since the NFL started recording sacks as an official stat in 1982). With his 14 sacks from 2018 added on to that total from his first three years, his four year total of 36.0 sacks puts him in a three way tie for the 38th highest sack total through his first four seasons. And he is still only 25 years old.

As for where that puts him in terms of some of the elite young defensive names in the division, Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals also had 36.0 sacks through his first four seasons, while Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams had 39.0.

In any case, for those wondering how much money Clark will command on a second contract, the answer is a whole boatload and then some. Some fans have pointed to the contract that Danielle Hunter signed (five years, $72M) as a good comparable for Clark, but this comparison falls short because the team held the leverage at the time of Hunter’s extension. Hunter was still under contract for the 2018 season when he signed the extension in June of this year, and so in exchange for foregoing the right to hit free agency in the spring of 2019, Hunter took $16.907M guaranteed rather than risk injury during the season.

Clark, on the other hand, decided to pass up whatever guaranteed money the Hawks were offering at the time in favor of taking out an insurance policy on himself, and is obviously more than content to play out the season without an extension. That said, he is not quite in the class of an Aaron Donald, which would put a ceiling on his APY somewhere in the $22.5M range. The Seahawks retain exclusive negotiating rights with Clark through March 11, and they can easily ensure his return in 2019 through applying the franchise tag starting February 19.

In any case, his price tag is likely in the $20M range, and if he indeed hits free agency, whether as an unrestricted free agent or under either the non-exclusive franchise tag or transition tag, then it could end up going even higher in a bidding war. While the current front office has shied away from using these tags in recent seasons, I will not be at all surprised to see the Hawks front office tag Clark if a long term agreement is not reached before then.

Obviously things could change, and nobody knows for certain how long the Seahawks season will continue, since it’s reached that time of year where it’s win or go home, but fans get to cheer on Clark for at least one more game this weekend against the Dallas Cowboys in one of the two NFC Wild Card games.