After Kansas City’s wheeling and dealing at defensive end this offseason, it all boils down to, essentially, trading Dee Ford (to the 49ers) and a first-round pick for Seattle’s Frank Clark. Not only that, but they gave Clark a five-year contract with $63.5 million guaranteed (though that guaranteed number could prove to be smaller once full details of the contracts emerge). Ford’s recent contract, on the other hand, cost San Francisco just $33.5 million guaranteed. So it’s not that the Chiefs believe Clark is worth Dee Ford plus a first-round pick—they believe Clark is worth Dee Ford plus a first-round pick plus $30 million.
Our Albert Breer recently reported that most people within the NFL believe Clark is clearly better than Ford. From having watched almost every snap on film of both players the last three years, that’s not surprising. Ford’s get-off and pliability are tremendous, making him potent off the edge and on stunts and twists inside. However Clark’s get-off and pliability are unparalleled—on his best snaps, he is the quickest defensive lineman in football. The problem is there can be a sizeable gap between his best snaps and average snaps, and you sometimes go for long stretches without seeing Clark at his best.
Clark has become more consistent with each passing year, which surely factored heavily into Kansas City’s thinking—these moves are about the future as much as the present. Ford is 28 years old with a history of injuries, including a back problem that limited him to six games and just two sacks in 2017. Clark may not be worth Ford plus a first-round pick PLUS $30 million right now, but he turns 26 in June, and for what its worth, his mileage is low, having played 32% of the snaps as a rookie in 2015 and 63% in ’16. The Chiefs can reasonably believe that Clark is just getting started, while Ford could be on the cusp of slowing down.
Also, it’s worth considering that nobody knows Ford better than the Chiefs, so if there are any additional injury concerns, or soft character concerns or subtle limitations to his game, only they are FULLY in the know. But, of course, the same is true with Clark and the Seahawks—Seattle knows Clark much better than Kansas City does… and Seattle chose not to pay Clark. On his way out the door, Clark lamented to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
That’s not entirely true. Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and K.J. Wright got big contracts after their rookie deals. And Clark’s sidekick, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, will likely get one in the near future. Teams rarely deal away an elite pass rusher in his prime. When you consider that, and the premium the Chiefs paid, the Clark acquisition is a significant gamble.
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