A full stop on the Wilson contract saga
I’d recommend this piece from Michael Silver reviewing the moments that led to Russell Wilson agreeing terms with the Seahawks. It highlights how both sides compromised to get a deal done and how the Seahawks, while clearly committed to keeping their star quarterback, were unwilling to change the face of NFL contracts forever. They stuck to their plan and it worked.
What happens with Frank Clark?
Let’s get one thing straight. If the Seahawks want to pay Frank Clark, they can.
An increasing number of people are trying to convince you that there’s only one way to succeed — their way. That all you have to do is follow their rules. Follow their formula. Their way of playing offense. Their way of team building.
This isn’t the case. Not in football and not in many other sports. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ blueprint. Getting rid of your good players and trying to replace them with cheap, unproven rookies is fraught with just as much danger — probably more in fact — than building around a small core of extremely talented players.
There are consequences. You will have to make savings somewhere. The Seahawks have a Head Coach with a track record of developing defensive backs. They could churn through young talent at corner and safety in order to save money.
You also have to draft well. The Seahawks did a fine job picking the likes of Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett and Jarran Reed. They found a franchise quarterback in round three and previously built a legendary defense on the cheap.
The idea that paying quality players is a death knell for your chances of succeeding is an illusion. And with so many young quarterbacks set to be paid over the next three years, most of the NFL will be facing the same challenge.
It’s possible the Seahawks believe the price is too high for Clark. He’s an excellent young pass rusher with further room to grow. He’s not, however, a game-wrecker like Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack. The next contract he signs will put him in their pay range. Yet weaker players such as Trey Flowers are earning $18m a year. This is the going rate these days.
My prediction is that Clark will play out the 2019 season on the franchise tag and won’t sign a new deal or be traded.
The cost for a defensive end isn’t likely to change too much in the next 12 months. With Wilson signed, it’s possible the Seahawks could franchise tag Clark again in 2020. If he takes another step forward in 2019, you might be more inclined to pay him elite money next year.
Assuming they can get a deal done with Bobby Wagner — and that should be fairly straight forward given his importance to the team — there’s no real reason to rush on anything with Clark. That’s the bonus of knowing the franchise tag is available next year following Wilson’s extension.
Signing him to top-level money seems premature given it still feels like we haven’t seen the absolute best of Clark. There’s more to come. If he proves it in 2019, he’ll fully deserve a big extension.
Despite rumours to the contrary, trading Clark still seems unlikely for two key reasons.
Firstly, this is an outstanding draft class for defensive linemen. Every team in the league is trying to find a financial advantage. Trading a high pick, giving up the chance of owning a cost-effective rookie and claiming the chance to pay Clark +$65m guaranteed isn’t logical unless the Seahawks are willing to give him away like the Chiefs and Dee Ford.
Secondly, Seattle’s pass rush wasn’t that great in 2018 anyway. Trading away their best defensive lineman would create a serious hole.
For all the people saying ‘just trade him’ — you can’t force teams to make a great trade offer. It’s possible the offers aren’t there — plus the desire to pay him a long-term extension isn’t there. If that’s the case, there’s no other option but to play out the 2019 season.
What kind of a trade might work?
Forget about a high first round pick. Forget about conservative GM’s like Chris Ballard in Indianapolis being prepared to give up first round picks.
The kind of scenario that could potentially get this done is the one we proposed in early March.
Essentially it would involve a swap of first rounders.
The Seahawks would need to pick in the top-12 to justify trading Clark. That’s their only chance to replace him with a top-tier pass rusher from this rookie class.
My original proposal involved the Bills and I’ll continue to use them for the purpose of this example. You might prefer an alternative team.
Here’s the idea — the Seahawks get #9 and the Bills get #21. Buffalo then gives the Seahawks their second round pick (#40) and possibly a fourth round pick (they have two this year).
That way the Bills still get a chance to spend a first rounder to build around their young quarterback. They also acquire a quality pass rusher. The Seahawks can try to replace Clark with a top-10 pick and they get the opportunity to fill out their draft board with extra picks in rounds two and four (taking their total to six instead of four).
They could draft someone like Rashan Gary or Montez Sweat (or trade down and look at Clelin Ferrell) while gaining the #40 pick to spend on a receiver or a nickel hybrid.
Of course if they simply keep Clark they can trade down from #21 as many times as they want and collect a receiver, nickel or another pass rusher anyway.
Thoughts on the draft
It’s still difficult to project what might happen considering the Seahawks are destined to trade down from #21 to acquire more picks. They’ll probably trade down more than once too.
The biggest need is arguably adding to the pass rush but the depth of the D-line class offers some possible relief there. If they want to they can wait on that area. It depends who lasts into range. If they trade Frank Clark this becomes a much greater priority.
It’s a top-heavy receiver class. While there’s some relative depth later on, the best players will go early. With Wilson’s contract signed the Seahawks might feel obliged to provide him with another weapon — especially with uncertainty over Doug Baldwin’s future.
The nickel/safety/hybrid position is equally a bit top-heavy. And while many still think the Seahawks are looking at these players to replace Earl Thomas — I maintain they’re looking to replace Justin Coleman. Seattle played a lot more nickel last year and utilised Delano Hill as a big nickel. The safety hybrid’s in this draft are running in the 4.3’s and 4.4’s so can easily handle nickel duties. Plus many of them (Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Juan Thornhill, Darnell Savage, Amani Hooker) lined up at nickel in college.
These are the three areas to focus on with the first pick.
I’ll have a new mock out tomorrow.
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