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Commentary: Seahawks hold all the cards in the Frank Clark situation

Frank Clark #55 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a second quarter defensive stop against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on December 10, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The NFL Draft doesn’t start until Thursday, but this week was quite productive with the signing of Russell Wilson to a record contract extension through 2023.

The most pressing question now? What to do with Frank Clark.

Let’s start by quashing any thought that Wilson’s deal significantly affects the Clark situation. From Day One, we knew that Wilson was not only a top priority, but that he would command around $35 million per season. It was already built into the budget John Schneider discussed this week. The fact the Seahawks were able to get it done without spending a ton more, in my opinion, shouldn’t really affect their budget for Clark.

The problem is: Whether that budget coincides with what Clark thinks he deserves.

After all, many believe that the market for Clark was set when DeMarcus Lawrence agreed to a five-year deal with the Cowboys worth $105 million dollars – an average of $21 million per year. Given that Clark is a year younger and has one more sack in fewer seasons than Lawrence, Clark likely believes he’s worth at least that much money.

But here’s his problem: The Seahawks have most of the leverage – and in this situation, there doesn’t seem to be a bad decision.

And here’s why: The Hawks have already placed the franchise tag on Clark, which means, if the two sides can’t agree on a longterm deal by July 15, Clark would play for the Seahawks for a guaranteed $17.1 million this upcoming season. Clark has said he won’t sign the franchise tag or attend training camp until he gets the deal he wants. That’s really the only leverage he has.

But the percentages tell us there’s no way Clark would pull a LeVeon Bell and refuse to sign the franchise tag and refuse to play. Remember, this is a player who has made a TOTAL of $3.8 million in four seasons. The likelihood of forfeiting $17 million on principle alone is incredibly slim.

So worst case, you’re getting Clark – an established pass rusher – for one more season – on a contract year no less, which would motivate him to play for a max deal next offseason. And best case, you strike a long-term deal with him at your budgeted number.

Or – somewhere in the middle – Schneider finds a willing trade partner that gives them a first-round pick and likely an extra later-round pick as well. Sure, Clark would have to sign his franchise tag first, but whoever the Hawks trade with would be optimistic about signing Clark longterm too. Right now, the Hawks currently have just four picks – the fewest in the draft. And with a wealth of pass rushers available this year, the Hawks could draft a possible replacement for Clark, and have team control of that player for at least the next four years on a rookie deal.

If it sounds similar to the Earl Thomas situation last year, it certainly is.

And while I think Frank Clark is a phenomenal player, the Seahawks still hold all the cards. They simply won’t overpay Clark – at least, according to their budget. And they have options as well, so they won’t give him away for nothing at all.

And that’s a comfortable position in which to be.

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