GREEN BAY, Wis. – Just before the first practice of training camp on Saturday, the Green Bay Packers signed defensive tackle Kenny Clark to a lucrative contract extension.
Clark was asleep on Friday night when his agent reached out to tell him about the deal.
"Man, let's do it," Clark said in recalling that conversation via a Zoom call after Saturday's practice. He inked the deal before walking on the practice field.
"Coach (Matt LaFleur) and Russ (Ball, the team's negotiator) and everybody congratulated me, I signed, got out to practice," Clark said. "A couple people already knew. Coach (Mike) Pettine brought us all up and they came out and said I had just got paid or whatever. Everybody was just happy, man. It’s a family here. Love it here, love the guys here, love playing with everybody here. I’m excited about being on this team."
The deal reportedly is for four years and $70 million, according to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter. It includes a $25 million signing bonus and $37 million in the first two years.
Including 2020, Clark is under contract through 2024. He is the 12th-highest paid defensive player in the NFL, Schefter said.
A first-round pick in 2016, Clark called himself "blessed."
"When Russ gave me the contract to sign, I was shaking," he said.
While the case for a contract extension for star running back Aaron Jones stands on some shaky ground, there were no such concerns for Clark. He is a young, elite player at a premium position.
Clark, who won’t even turn 25 until October, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He has emerged as a three-down defender, a rare thing for a 300-pounder.
Clark finished second on the team with 89 tackles, according to the coaches’ count. Those tackles limited the average gain to 1.8 yards, according to Sports Info Solutions. He had a team-high 11 stuffs, defined as a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage vs. the run. Among the 63 interior defensive linemen who played at least 200 snaps of run defense, Clark finished seventh in PFF’s run-stop percentage. That metric measures impact tackles. For instance, a first-and-10 tackle that holds the play to 3 yards would be a run stop; a 4-yard gain would not be a run stop.
Clark is more than just a top run-stopper, though. He matched his career high with six sacks last season. Among the 82 defensive linemen who rushed the passer at least 200 times, Clark finished sixth in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity, which measures sacks, hit and hurries per pass-rushing snap. Among interior defenders, his 62 total pressures trailed only Aaron Donald’s 80.
Looking at both of PFF’s metrics, Clark was the only interior defender to finish in the top 16 in each. Clark, of course, was much better than merely the top 16. And yet, Clark is so underrated that it wasn’t even considered a snub (other than by astute Packers fans) that he wasn’t included on NFL Network’s player-voted list of the top 100 players in the league. One scout, in a text conversation about the 100-player list, called Clark’s absence “a joke.”
“He’s a dominant player,” coach Matt LaFleur said before the NFC Championship Game. “He comes to work every day, he’s a pro and he works hard. Kenny’s been consistent all year long and I think he’s probably a little underrated, in my opinion, but we’re certainly fortunate to have a player of that caliber on our football team.”
Clark was scheduled to play this season under the fifth-year team option of $7.69 million.