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Frank Clark Discusses Why He Left KC Chiefs in Free Agency

New Denver Broncos defensive end Frank Clark recently discussed why he left the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency and what led to that final decision.

The Kansas City Chiefs' 2019 trade for Frank Clark is widely viewed in retrospect as one that may not have been worth the immense financial investment that general manager Brett Veach made, yet absolutely worth banking on the player's leadership and playoff stature leading to big-time wins in crunch time. 

With Clark now heading off to another AFC West club — the Denver Broncos — in free agency, his four-year run in Kansas City has officially come to a close after the club released him back in March. 

Clark, who is entering his age-30 season and will soon be playing for his third NFL team in nine seasons, amassed regular-season 23.5 sacks as a member of the Chiefs and also contributed to many key playoff wins along the way. Making the Pro Bowl three times in Kansas City and also becoming a world champion twice, he built a legacy that leaves the bar fairly high heading into his next chapter with the Broncos. In a recent conversation on the Undefined podcast with CBS Sports' Josina Anderson, Clark discussed when he knew he likely wasn't going to be a Chief in 2023: 

"The reality is that I had to face that a few months ago when I had the conversation with my GM, with [Brett] Veach. That settled in for me a few months ago, the fact that there was a high chance that I probably wasn’t going to be back. There’s always a little bit of hope that you could defend your crown and stuff like that, but I kind of knew. I knew that it probably wasn’t going to happen just based on our conversation that we had."

Because Clark was due to count for such a high salary cap number this coming season, the Chiefs desperately needed to work something out in terms of a contract restructure or extension. When that didn't take place, the team saved $21 million in cap space by cutting their longtime starting defensive end. Clark and his camp knew that something had to be done either way and despite the door being left open for a return to Kansas City, it always seemed unlikely to him and an offer allegedly never manifested itself: 

“We obviously know something has to be worked out. I wasn’t asking for an out-of-the-ballpark number. I wasn’t asking for $15-20M. I was due like 25, so I told my agent — I didn't even do any talking, I got all this from the back-end of my agent, Erik Burkhardt — he basically just gave me the scoop [from the team], ‘We’re trying to get something done with a few other guys on the team,’ and I said, ‘I’m with you. I understand fully.’ And he said, ‘If it comes around in free agency and if we can make something work out later on, let’s stay in contact and we can work something out.’ And I said, ‘Alright, I got you.’ And that was basically the gist of the conversation.

"Did I get an offer? Was anything said to that degree? No, there was never nothing said because it was more him saying like, ‘Yo. I don’t want to offer you a number that you’re going to feel disrespected [by] if I offer you, to keep it real with you.’"

While things may have ended in less-than-ideal fashion with Clark departing for a bitter division rival, there isn't any level of animosity coming from either side. The Chiefs have always appreciated the character, leadership and effort Clark brought to the organization, and Clark was extremely complimentary of head coach Andy Reid when speaking to Anderson. Referring to Reid as someone who "turned me into a true man and helped me become a stand-up guy in this league and in life," the veteran pass-rusher said he's "forever thankful" for the chance to play for Reid.

Additionally, Clark doubled down on liking his time as a Chief and enjoying the opportunity to build something special as a member of the team. Praising his former teammates and also the organization as a whole, Clark looks back at this section of his career as an extremely positive one. To wrap up chatting about his free agency process in relation to Kansas City, though, he said he understood that it was time for something new.

“I feel like we both enjoyed the time. I truthfully believe that and agree to that. I enjoyed my time in KC. I enjoyed the relationship that I built with everybody. There's no hard feelings to anybody in that building. But it was just time to move on, time for new beginnings."

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