Seattle Seahawks

NFL salary cap slightly lower than expected. What that means for Frank Clark and his Seahawks

News Tribune’s Gregg Bell from Indianapolis on the biggest Seahawks takeaways from NFL combine

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell from Indianapolis on the biggest Seahawks takeaways from the 2019 NFL combine.
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The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell from Indianapolis on the biggest Seahawks takeaways from the 2019 NFL combine.

Frank Clark’s potential windfall is a few dollars short of an expected benchmark.

Not that he should be fretting too much about that.

The NFL set its salary cap for 2019 Friday. It’s $188.2 million. That’s up from $177.2 million last year. But it’s below the $190 million or more expected by most around the league amid booming revenues.

How does that affect Clark most immediately?

Seattle’s defensive end and leading sack man has his contract ending. He could become a free agent when the market opens March 13.

But he won’t. Coach Pete Carroll reiterated this week here at the NFL’s annual scouting combine the Seahawks are going to keep Clark from free agency and signed to the team for this year, at least.

“Frankie will be with us, yeah,” Carroll said Thursday.

Coach Pete Carroll on the Seahawks’ offseason, more at 2019 NFL combine in Indianapolis.

But how will the Seahawks keep him?

The team has until March 5 to apply its one-per-year franchise tag on Clark. Signs at the combine are that’s what Seattle is going to do. And it’s what the team will do if it doesn’t reach an agreement with Clark on an extension before Tuesday.

The NFL Players’ Associated had expected the franchise-tag cost for defensive ends in 2019 to be $17.3 million, up from $17,143,000 That was based on the expectation the salary cap was going to be $190 million or more.

With the cap coming in lower than that, the franchise tag values did, too. The 2019 franchise tag number for defensive ends is $17,128,000, actually down $172,000 from last year. That’s according to a league memorandum obtained Friday by Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s The Monday Morning Quarterback (below)..

The Seahawks haven’t used a franchise tag since 2010, when Carroll and general manager John Schneider used one on kicker Olindo Mare in the first months they were running the team. The Seahawks are still trying to get a longer-term extension done with Clark beyond 2019.

They can still do that even if they apply the tag to Clark by the Tuesday deadline.

Applying a tag would buy the Seahawks more time to get a longer deal done with Clark. Teams have until July 15 to sign franchise-tag players to multi-year contracts that supersede the tag. After July 15, players tagged in March must play on one-year deals.

While Clark would be missing out on free-agent riches this year if the Seahawks tag him, it’s still a good deal for him—which is why he and his agent have not jumped at the team’s extension offers yet. With a franchise tag Clark would get an astronomical raise from the $943,000 he earned last year, the final one of his rookie contract as Seattle’s second-round draft choice in 2015. And he could be entering free agency in the spring of 2020 still just 26 years old.

The Seahawks could franchise tag Clark for a second consecutive year in 2020 to keep him, but that would mean a guaranteed salary of $20.55 million for him. The league’s collective bargaining agreement mandates a 120-percent increase in value to a player who gets tagged for a second year in a row.

So, yes, no matter how the Seahawks choose to handle Clark the next few days and weeks, no matter the smaller-than-expected increase in the salary-cap and tag numbers, he’s going to do all right.

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.