Seattle Seahawks

Frank Clark says he got his 14 sacks this past Seahawks season with torn elbow ligaments

This month’s playoff loss at Dallas was the final game of Frank Clark’s rookie contract with the Seahawks. The defensive end who had a career-high 14 sacks in 17 games this season told The News Tribune after that Jan. 5 game he believes he will remain in Seattle, that the team will get a new deal done before free agency begins in March.
This month’s playoff loss at Dallas was the final game of Frank Clark’s rookie contract with the Seahawks. The defensive end who had a career-high 14 sacks in 17 games this season told The News Tribune after that Jan. 5 game he believes he will remain in Seattle, that the team will get a new deal done before free agency begins in March. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Just think what Frank Clark could do with healthy arms.

That’s what he wants the Seahawks—and potentially the NFL—to think during his negotiations for a new, megabucks contract.

The 25-year-old defensive end had a career-high 14 sacks in 17 games this past season. He posted on his social-media account Tuesday he did that while playing at barely above half of full health this past season because of ulnar-collateral-ligament injuries in both his elbows.

UCL is the ulnar collateral ligament on the inside of the elbow. The UCL connects the inside of the upper arm to the inside of the forearm.

Coach Pete Carroll said during the season Clark had “hyperextended” his elbows.

The first time was in the third preseason game, at Minnesota. Clark got the same injury in December, in the Seahawks’ regular-season win over the Vikings.

After that victory, on Dec. 14, Carroll said this when asked what happened to Clark in the game: “It’s the other elbow. He kind of did the same thing on the other elbow if you can imagine that. He got caught, he got hyperextended a little bit.”

Now Clark is saying it was more than “hyperextended a little bit.” It’s hard to see why Clark would be so public about something that wasn’t true, right at the time he’s trying to get a new contract.

Yet he played on. Clark has 33 sacks the last three seasons. He also posted Tuesday evening on Twitter his new spin move for sacks in the last year he worked on with Seahawks defensive line coach Clint Hurtt came after he broke his hand during the 2017 season.

Clark also posted: “I didn’t make an excuse. no one should ever.” and “I drop heat on Twitter, we don’t do regular”

Last summer, Clark responded on Twitter to my post about his offseason wrist surgery with: “It’s good news brotha!! I played a whole season last year with broke bones in both my hands. I was given the option of surgery but I would’ve been out for 8-10 weeks. At the time we were struggling with more terminal injuries to our defense and I knew I could fight through mines.”

So, by Clark’s social-media count: that’s 23 sacks the last two years with UCL injuries in both his elbows plus broken bones in each of his hands.

Plus, he does more than just sack quarterbacks. In October’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Clark had an interception, two tackles plus a hit and forced fumble on quarterback Jared Goff.

That was less than two days after he was hospitalized with a three-day fight with food poisoning.

Clark’s rookie contract ended with Seattle’s loss at Dallas in the wild-card playoffs Jan. 5. His base salary for 2018 was $943,000. Given this is a passer-and-sack-the-passer league, that nobody in the NFL had more sacks per snaps played from 2016 through this season plus the fact he is still in his mid-20s, Clark stands to increase his annual pay 17-fold.

Yes, he’s about to earn as much as seventeen times more than what he made this past season.

Carroll has said repeatedly that Clark isn’t going anywhere, that the Seahawks re-signing their top pass rusher they made their controversial first draft choice in 2015 is a top priority this offseason.

“I mean, Frank, he’s a Seahawk. ...We’ll figure it out somehow,” Carroll said last month.

The coach reiterated that on Jan. 7.

What is it going to take to keep Clark?

The Seahawks’ prefer to sign him to a long-term extension with up-front guarantees. That would allow them to prorate the signing-bonus money across the life of the four- or five-year contract, to make Clark’s per-year salary-cap charge more team-friendly.

Failing that, they could keep him from entering the free-agent market that opens on March 13 by using their franchise tag on him. Each NFL team gets one such tag per year to use on any player with an expiring contract.

The period to use franchise, and less-restrictive transition, tags is Feb. 19 to March 5. So the team has about a month before the tag time to strike a long-term deal with Clark. They could still reach agreement on a longer-term deal after applying the tag, up until July 15.

Based on the 2018 franchise-tag numbers for defensive ends ($17,143,00) and the expected rise in the NFL salary cap in 2019, a franchise tag to keep Clark is likely to cost Seattle close to $18 million for 2019. That would be a one-year contract with Clark guaranteed all that money. All of it would count this year against Seattle’s salary cap.

The Seahawks also have planned talks with Russell Wilson’s agent on getting the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback an extension on his contract that ends following the 2019 season. That’s going to cost Seattle at least $32 million per year based on the league’s QB market. And All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner has his contract ending after 2019, too.

So the Seahawks have big salary-cap reasons to want to avoid going the franchise-tag route with Clark.

Clark and his agent have been in no hurry to get an extension. At the very least that tag number looks mighty fine to them. They know Clark can get a mammoth raise and could still be a free agent again in 2020 while he’s still only 26 years old.

The NFL had 11 defensive ends playing in 4-3 schemes, as Clark does, that earned $10 million this past season. The top paid were Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah and Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence at $17,143,000. Both played under franchise tags for 2018.

Ansah had four sacks in 2018. Lawrence had 10 1/2.

“Just to do an early deal for the sake of doing an early deal doesn’t excite us, especially for a guy like Frank who’s already a dominant pass-rusher in this league and is just scratching the surface of what he will be,” Erik Burkhardt, Clark’s agent, told ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson in October.

Clark took out an insurance policy to guard against potential injury and reduced earning potential this past year.

“Yeah, it’s cool, you know what I’m sayin? he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s just an insurance policy. I know an insurance policy ain’t nothing to what I know I can be worth, though.

“At the end of the day, I’m just going to keep on going. My head’s down. And I ain’t looking up until the marathon is finished. And when the marathon is finished, like I always say man, the sprinters get tired, got to keep on sprinting and keep on going.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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