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How much could a Frank Clark extension cost?

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Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks saw their 2018 season come to an end against the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night in Texas, however, that doesn’t mean that the news will be devoid of attention worthy matters regarding the Seahawks in the coming weeks and months. With the NFL offseason quickly approaching for all teams, that means the next two months are set to be full of contract extension talks and announcements, followed by free agency and the draft before finally settling into the lull of the summer doldrums.

For the Seattle Seahawks, there is perhaps no bigger question than the potential contract extension for Frank Clark, who is set to break the bank for the team. With the Hawks season having finished, that means that Clark is no longer at risk of suffering a serious injury which would prevent him from hitting free agency in just a matter of weeks and becoming a very, very wealthy young man.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that the conversation on social media turned to this topic last night.

Without beating around the bush, let’s jump right into the pieces of the situation we know. First, based on what Pete Carroll has said regarding Clark, specifically that, “he’s not going anywhere” it would seem safe to assume that the team has no hesitation to use the franchise tag if they need to. And, as Doug Farrar points out here, that’s completely reasonable.

However, what the fact that the idea of the franchise tag means in negotiations is that is sets a salary floor, not just for 2019, but for 2020 and 2021 as well. This is because once the team has used the franchise tag once, there’s no reason for a player to not assume that the team will not be willing to do it a second and third time as well. This grows out of the simple logic that if the team and player cannot come to agreement on a long term deal the first go round, what would make things different for the future in terms negotiations when the player knows that if they stay healthy they have a 20% raise guaranteed if the team uses the franchise tag yet again.

Thus, using the projected franchise tag number based on an estimated salary cap of $190M for 2019, as former agent Joel Corry did back in December, the projected franchise tag number for a defensive end should be in the neighborhood of $17.291M.

Now, $17.291 is a very palatable number for 2019, but as noted, if the team uses a second franchise tag in 2020, then Clark is guaranteed a 20% raise. That would equate to a 2020 cap number of around $20.749M. Now, typically it would follow that the exact same thing would be in play for 2021, however, with the current CBA up following the 2020 season, things are somewhat up in the air for years past that because there’s no guarantee that the franchise tag will actually exist for 2021. However, negotiating right now, both sides have to assume that the tag, which has existed for the past 25 years is likely to continue to exist in some form moving forward.

As such, we can then put a baseline for 2021 at $24.899M, which would be a 20% raise over the 2020 franchise tag. Thus, it is likely that Clark’s agent is asking for those salaries during those three years. Adding that all up, it comes to $62,939,240 over those three seasons.

That should be the starting point for Clark’s agent, and so the team will then likely look to do counter with two points. First, they’ll argue to reduce that number a little by arguing that Clark faces the risk of injury playing on contracts a season at a time, and they’re absolutely correct about this. At that point, Clark’s agent will get quotes for insurance contracts that would cover him for each season, and use that as the amount he might be willing to give up based on having to pay the premium on such a policy. This is reportedly what he did this past season, so there would seem to be little doubt that he would be willing to do the exact same thing again going forward.

The second thing the Seahawks will argue is that if he signs a four year contract he will be able to hit free agency again before his age 30 season, and so they will put a fourth year behind that three year, $62.9M structure we saw above. Adding a fourth year at the average annual salary of that three year structure puts the contract at $83.9M, and then from there the insurance policy premiums can be backed out.

Now, having no idea how robust or how bare bones the policy Clark took out on himself is or would be, it’s nothing more than a shot in the dark at guessing the premium. Thus, simply reducing the contract down to the nearest round numbers, four years and $80M, would be my guess on a baseline. If he is allowed to hit free agency, he could likely wrench significantly more than that out of at least one team, and with his risk of injury while playing now gone, there’s little reason for him to accept anything less than maximum money.

So, to summarize, whether Clark’s extension is announced in the coming weeks, in March once free agency arrives or at the summer deadline after having had the franchise tag applied, he’s going to be a very, very, very wealthy young man very soon.