BY Art Thiel 07:15PM 03/04/2019

Thiel: Seahawks franchise-tag Clark for $17M

Seahawks put franchise tag on sack-master Frank Clark. Which won’t keep them from drafting another pass rusher. You can thank Malik McDowell.

Having more fun than pursuing Dallas QB Dak Prescott, Frank Clark scored a hit on the Seahawks’ exchequer Monday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

When last we saw the Seahawks, the defense had just given up to the Dallas Cowboys 380 yards and 24 points, including 130 yards in two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. So no, DE Frank Clark — who along with LB Bobby Wagner, were Seattle’s only game-changing defenders — was not going anywhere this off-season.

Relative to recent history, the Seahawks defense wasn’t all that good last year — the plus-15 turnover differential that led the league masked the rankings of 15th in yards and 11th in points given up. Allowing Clark, who led Seattle with a career-high 13 sacks, to enter free agency after four years of increasing productivity would have been daffy in the extreme.

Monday the Seahawks, ahead of a 1 p.m. deadline Tuesday for such designations, deployed the seldom-used franchise tag to extend Clark’s tenure for at least one year at a league-rules-mandatory $17.128 million, per NFL.com.

Little surprise attended his retention, which had been forecast by coach Pete Carroll the day after the playoff loss in Arlington, TX.

“I’m counting on it. Counting on it,” Carroll said. ” We want Franky to be with us.”

The franchise tag is a club-friendly way of kicking the can down the road. The sides will continue to negotiate for a long-term extension, which by league rule can extend only to July 15, after which his one-year deal contract is fully guaranteed. No new deal can be struck until after the regular season.

But for a year, it will be a fun ride. Last season, he made $943,941. His entire rookie deal paid him $3.73 million, or less than he’ll make in September.

The Seahawks chose the non-exclusive franchise designation, meaning he can negotiate with other teams, but if he were to sign elsewhere, the team signing him would have to send two first-round picks to Seattle. Not happening.

Clark’s 35 career sacks are 10th on the Seahawks’ all-time list and his 32 sacks over the past three seasons are ninth-most in the NFL. In the Cowboys game, he had the Seahawks’ only sack, plus three QB hurries and four tackles, one for loss.

And he’s only 25, seeming to grow up a little the past season in the absence of several legendary leaders on defense.

“Made a huge step this year in terms of leadership, growth and maturity,” Carroll told reporters at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last week. “It was so obvious. I was really proud of seeing that develop for Frank. He played great too. He’s a very valuable football player.”

A reminder of how important Clark is for Seattle came with the news Saturday that the Seahawks officially cut ties with DE Malik McDowell, whose non-football injury accident with an ATV became one of the most bizarre chapters in Seahawks personnel history.

Had McDowell justified his unexpected selection with the 35th pick in the second round of the 2017 draft, the Seahawks might have had the best rush-edge tandem in the NFL, or at least since Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were the chief QB annoyers/destroyers. But no.

Drafted from Michigan State at 20, McDowell was said to be a top-10 physical talent in a premium position. Yet red flags abounded because of questions about his maturity and drive.

Much in the manner of the trade for WR Percy Harvin, the Seahawks took the we-can-fix-him approach but came to discover he damaged his own goods.

McDowell signed his $6.9 million rookie contract, attended OTAs, but never made training camp after the Seahawks in July disclosed the mysterious ATV accident supposedly in his home state, for which a police or first-responder report has never surfaced.

Carroll acknowledged McDowell had “a very bad concussion” but was otherwise mum about the circumstances and health consequences. The Seahawks paid him a $3.1 million signing bonus, but he never played a down.

While it’s true that the waste of the high pick was mitigated some by the four lower draft choices acquired by trading down from the 26th spot — they selected safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill, CB Mike Tyson and running back Chris Carson — a hole still had to be filled on the defensive line.

At the start of the season, they gave up WR Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for DT Sheldon Richardson. He played reasonably well in 2017, but left for free agency after one season.

The popular speculation is that if the Seahawks use their first-round pick at No. 21 in the April draft, they will try again to get a pass rusher to keep some of the double-teams away from Clark.

McDowell may be gone, but he is the non-gift that keeps on not giving.


YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    I would sure like to see Kearse back with the Seahawks.

    • ll9956

      Ditto!

    • art thiel

      He’d be a low-risk free agent option, probably as a No. 5 WR. My guess is Wilson would share your enthusiasm.

      • wabubba67

        Can’t we find a younger, cheaper WR that can’t get separation from a DB (at this stage of his career)?

        • art thiel

          Probably. But he’s only 29, not 34 like Brandon Marshall. And there is something to be said for experience.

    • tor5

      Add me to the Kearse party. That guy brings some magic that you don’t see in the stat book.

  • Matt712

    The Seahawks may have filled that need in last year’s draft. Looking for Rasheem Green to take a big step forward this season.

    • art thiel

      Possible, but after a good training camp, he faded. Injuries played a part, but I see him as a rotation player, not a game-changer like several of the rushers in this draft.

  • tor5

    McDowell is a mystery for sure. You’d think he’d eventually recovery from a concussion, even a bad one, but seems like there must be more to it. To be fair to the Hawks, they never really got their hands on him to guide his maturation. In fact, Clark himself arrived with some major red flags but–with a few ugly lapses–has seemed to grow up a bit. I wonder if Art would agree with that?

    • Husky73

      Reading between the lines (I could be wrong, and often am), it sounds like brain damage.

    • art thiel

      I have no info on the extent of McDowell’s injuries, although it’s safe to assume that doctors concluded that subsequent blows would have a high risk for serious re-injury.

      Clark seems to have matured, but whether he’s beyond his issues with women isn’t knowable.

    • Kirkland

      There’s got to be something more to the McDowell situation that neither his camp nor the Seahawks are letting on. They can rightfully use HIPPA laws to keep mum about an off-field injury, but they also have to face a lot of wild speculation from the fans and accusations about non-transparency. We’ll probably never know unless someone from “Dateline” or “48 Hours” chooses to dig into the story.

      As for Clark, is it possible to root both for an against a guy? Great player, but I’m still not comfortable having him on the team given his legal troubles involving women, and I would’ve much preferred them not drafting him even if he was the right football choice at their draft spot. It’s like how a lot of fans hated Jerramy Stevens due to his baggage, and how US soccer fans weren’t universally proud about Hope Solo making the World Cup team while under police investigation for domestic abuse. I remember watching watching the final at a pub; Solo made a key save, the woman next to me yelled, “Great stop, Solo!”, and then muttered, “You’d better had made that stop, you [pejorative noun].” Hard to disagree with her.

      • art thiel

        Your discomfort with Clark is shared by many. The fact that he skated past more serious consequences doesn’t change what happened in that hotel room.

        A lot of key heroes in more important endeavors have done bad things to good people at some point. Feel free to draw lines where you see fit, but try to be consistent.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Of course, the even more popular speculation is that the Seahawks will not use their first round draft pick at 21, at all, but trade down to get more picks…

    • Husky73

      Bruce, everyone in the room, and Art….I’m not criticizing, simply asking— has that worked out for the Seahawks over the years?

      • art thiel

        As with most teams, it works most of the time, but we remember when it doesn’t. Trading down for the Seahawks often has worked. They do far better on the draft’s third day than the first. McDowell, Ifedi, Carpenter. It can be argued they over-reached on Bruce Irvin.

  • jafabian

    It’s amazing how Frank’s game has elevated each year. He made his All-Conference team only once and wasn’t first team, never made All-American, the Pro-Bowl or All-Pro. But he’s well respected around the NFL as one of the top edge rushers in the league. And unlike a certain safety he doesn’t cry out how he’s been disrespected his whole life. Nor did he grouse about the franchise tag being used. If anything John Schneider did that for him because the GM has let it be known he considers its usage as a breakdown in communication and a last resort though that isn’t its intention. Hopefully both parties can find some common ground in the next 12 months because the Seahawks may need the tag for their quarterback.

  • Ron

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/report-frank-clark-plans-to-hold-out-unless-given-contract-extension/ar-BBUBvKx

    So much for kicking the can down the road one year. Another holdout. Trade him.