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Instant reaction: Why the Frank Clark deal is a coup for the Seahawks

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Draft assets, cap space both suddenly and markedly improved.

NFL: International Series-Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for two draft picks — a first and a second! — is not just a good move for the Seattle Seahawks, and not just the right move, it’s the best move.

Seattle could have kept Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Clark, simultaneously, all at top-of-the-market prices. There is room in an ever-growing salary cap for $75 million spread among three elite playmakers, each top 10 at their position. (Wagner being top 1, which is technically top 10, don’tchaknow.) It would have made for more tough decisions on mid-level players, but they could’ve retained all three.

Likewise, Seattle could have let Clark play on the franchise tag and decided what to do in-season. An extension, a third-round comp pick next offseason if it doesn’t work out, another tag, what have you. Time to decide isn’t a bad thing to have, and $17 million isn’t a terrible price for a young, gifted pass rusher.

At any moment, Seattle could have offered Clark an extension similar to the one KC gave him: five years, $105.5 million, $63.5 million guaranteed. It’s what players like Clark earn. That’s why the Chiefs paid up.

Instead, the Seahawks made the best choice, as they opted to bolster their draft assets, create room for other extensions, and turn the page on a (like it or not) controversial Seahawk, all at once. There are two-and-a-half benefits to the blockbuster trade, against one pretty big downside — not having Clark around anymore to disrupt quarterbacks.

In terms of assets gained for the 2019 and 2020 drafts, the Seahawks improved their position about as well as you could expect without landing a top 10 selection.

With only four picks to play with this week, John Schneider was going to be boxed into two options — keep 1.21 and wait a looong time before drafting again at 3.84, or trade down in a situation where every other GM knows he has to. Having the 21st and 29th pick in hand strengthens his negotiating hand considerably. He could even trade up! He won’t. But he could. What if Ed Oliver falls and falls, into the late teens, like Derwin James last year?

Schneider also has one first and two seconds in 2020. The next year’s worth of trade ammunition is covered as well.

Then, as far as Seattle’s cap flexibility, the numbers look good, suddenly good, markedly better than they did hours ago.

“Room for Bobby” are some of the sweetest words in the NFL language. Let’s not underestimate the effect on keeping Jarran Reed, though. His interior pass rush may never lead to 10.5 sacks again, as it did last season, but if he’s blossomed into a presence that gets into the backfield on a consistent basis, then it’s easier to say goodbye to Clark.

It doesn’t matter where the QB harassment comes from. It matters that people harass him.

At last, Clark was never going to be fully embraced by the Seahawks fanbase, not after the legal news that emerged when he was drafted. The public-relations reality of paying a not completely popular player $21 million annually is now avoided; regardless of how you feel Clark has comported himself, believe he’s grown into a leader, stayed out of legal trouble, been an exemplary citizen, the truth is the team now doesn’t have to run any damage control it would have. This aspect of Schneider and Carroll’s decision likely isn’t a giant one, but when you’re trying to decide who to make the second-highest paid Seahawk, it probably matters some.

(Parenthetically, the blockbuster trade is also a decent move for Kansas City, which replaces Dee Ford with a younger and more explosive version while Patrick Mahomes plays for peanuts and the championship window is wide open. But we’re here to talk about how the Seahawks aced their pre-draft quiz.)

Another thing beyond the rationale above, a little extra something that should give Seahawks fans confidence this was the right move, is it indicates the coaches have some trust in the existing DL group.

By shipping Clark off to the Chiefs, you’re losing 32 sacks and 66 QB hits over the last three years. He’s good for double-digit sacks, 20 or more QB hits and a ton of pressures every year. Every season since becoming a full-time player in 2016, Clark has produced at least 56 pressures. That’s a lot of production walking out of the V-Mac’s front door.

But what if Jacob Martin, best case scenario, gives you 75 percent of Clark’s production for five percent of the price? What if Rasheem Green develops? We basically didn’t see the third-rounder at all in 2018. What if Cassius Marsh isn’t a second thought in the pass rushing rotation?

The thing is, none of those what-ifs are remotely out of the question. Martin contributed three sacks in extremely limited time. Green is an unknown and only 22. Marsh had 5.5 sacks last year, which isn’t nothing.

The rotation of Martin, Green, Marsh, a draft pick and a free agent has a decent chance to outproduce the 2018 crew. Reed, Poona Ford, a few vets and a few rookies will generate pressure up the middle. I don’t think the 2019 Seahawks pass rush is that much worse without Clark right now; with a couple additions, it could conceivably be as good or better.

Either way, there is no disputing that Seattle’s draft position and salary cap situations both ascended dramatically with the Clark trade. You don’t have to like it as much as me, but it’s easy to see why the Seahawks made the move. Now they just have to use the proceeds wisely.