Analyzing the Seahawks’ options in the 2019 NFL Draft
Frank Clark had a princely price the Seahawks did not want to meet.
That’s why he’s now a Kansas City Chief.
Seattle did what general manager John Schneider had been telling everyone for the last week he was trying to do: exact a hefty return for trading its top pass rusher in the middle of stalled negotiations on a long-term contract. Tuesday, the Seahawks traded Clark to Kansas City for the Chiefs’ first-round choice in the NFL draft on Thursday (29th overall), a second-round pick in 2020 and an exchange of third-round selections.
The Chiefs made the trade official with an arrival video on their team website and social-media channels later Tuesday. It showed Clark’s new, red number-55 jersey hanging in his new locker in Kansas City.
The deal gives the Seahawks two choices in Thursday’s first round and what should be 12 in next year’s draft, including expected compensatory choices from losing free agents this year. It gives Seattle $17,128,000 in salary-cap space for this year that it didn’t have on Monday.
It also gives at least one now-ex teammate of Clark’s on Seattle’s defensive line a heartache.
Reed is not alone in needing to adjust. As of now, the Seahawks have no proven pass rusher beyond Reed’s 10½ sacks last season.
Plus, Reed posted a picture on his Instagram account Tuesday of him coming out of abdominal surgery in Philadelphia. That’s usually a six-week recovery time. That would indicate Seattle’s only accomplished sack man should be back for the start of training camp in late July, though he may be limited.
Clark and the Chiefs have an agreement on five-year, $105.5 million contract with $63.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That $105.5 million is $500,000 more than Demarcus Lawrence received last month to re-sign off a franchise tag with Dallas. Lawrence’s deal changed the negotiations between Clark and the Seahawks; it re-set the market to above a level Seattle was willing to pay.
The Seahawks signed franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to an NFL-record $140 million extension for four years last week. They still have to re-sign All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner to a top-of-the-market extension, too; his contract ends after the 2019 season.
Tuesday’s trade cements that Seattle’s cornerstone players for 2020 and beyond are Wilson and Wagner. Had Clark been willing to get paid less than Lawrence, who is nearly two years older than he with fewer sacks over the last three years, Clark would likely still be a Seahawk.
Then again, with the haul the Chiefs gave Seattle, maybe not.
Now-former teammates celebrated Clark’s jackpot.
Clark was Seattle’s top draft choice in 2015 out of Michigan, months after a domestic-assault arrest that had him off some teams’ draft boards. Formerly in search of next meals as a kid in the notorious Baldwin Village section of Los Angeles, Clark matured and flourished in Seattle, including as a father of a young daughter born in Bellevue early in his NFL career. He was coming a career year with 14 sacks in 17 games including the playoffs.
His rookie contract ended and he had been scheduled to play 2019 under the Seahawks’ franchise tag, at $17,128,000 guaranteed. But he had yet to sign the tender offer for the tag while seeking a richer, long-term deal.
Meanwhile the market for NFL edge rushers changed. Lawrence signed with Dallas after two years of a contract impasse with the Cowboys. Dee Ford, who had been on a franchise tag for 2019 from the Chiefs, got traded by Kansas City to San Francisco and signed for $85 million over five years with the 49ers.
Clark told ESPN’s Josina Anderson Tuesday after the trade: “I feel like I’m good. I wanted to be somewhere where I’m wanted, where I’m appreciated. I thank God that KC came in & showed that...In life you just want to be shown that you are appreciated sometimes and I feel like this was one of those things.
“They had other plans,” Clark told Anderson, about the Seahawks. “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) & Pete (Carroll) drafted 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.”
Seattle now has five choices in this weekend’s draft, still tied with Chicago for fewest in the league. The Seahawks’ picks are 21st and 29th overall in round one, 92nd in round three (in swapping down from 84 with the Chiefs), plus 124th overall in round four and 159th overall in round five.
Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have never had fewer than eight picks in any of their nine previous drafts leading the Seahawks. Expect them to trade one—or perhaps both—of their first-round choices Thursday to get even more picks, including the second-round selection Seattle still lacks.
You didn’t expect Schneider and Carroll to sit out this draft, especially this one historically deep in defensive-line and pass-rush prospects, did you?
“Especially the first three rounds,” Schneider said of the quality of defensive-line prospects in this draft class. “Then there appears to be a slight drop off.
“Defense as a whole, it’s a really good draft.”
Schneider also said, with a rueful chuckle, Monday when he was asked about having only four picks in this draft, before he traded Clark: “It’s no fun.”
He and Carroll have traded Seattle’s first-round choice in seven consecutive drafts. They now have the twice the opportunity to make it eight drafts in a row.
The Seahawks now have an even bigger need for edge pass rushers than they did with Clark before Tuesday. And Jacob Martin, their sixth-round draft choice who showed speed off the edge in flashes last season as a rookie, will get a bigger chance in 2019.
Here is Seattle’s roster of defensive ends, post-trade of Clark: Martin (whom the team also used some at linebacker early last year), Rasheem Green and Branden Jackson, plus recently signed Cassius Marsh and Nate Orchard.
Oh, yes, pass rusher now absolutely has become the top of multiple priorities for Seattle in this draft.
Whom may Seattle may be targeting?
Jeffery Simmons may still be in play for the Seahawks, and even after they do the expected and trade down again in round one. The tall, strong, dynamic defensive tackle from Mississippi State would be a top-15 pick if not for reconstructive knee surgery in February.