3 Burning Questions: Defensive Line

Moving to the defensive side of the football, the defensive line for the Green Bay Packers is going to look a bit different this season with the recent release of long-time Packer Mike Daniels. Stalwart Kenny Clark is the leader of this unit, and both Za’Darius and Preston Smith (no relation) were signed this offseason to represent major upgrades at the edge rusher position. 

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine looks to have a ton more weapons at his disposal on the line, and generating a stout front while producing constant pressure in the pocket is only going to make Green Bay’s secondary that much more dangerous. 

Here are three important questions facing the Packers’ defensive line unit for the 2019 NFL season. 

What kind of contract extension can Kenny Clark expect?

For Green Bay, their next most important contract extension needs to be given out to Kenny Clark, especially with the release of Daniels. Clark has been the best-producing tackle on the team for over a season now, and his new deal will need to reflect that. 

Rams DT Aaron Donald represents the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league at $22.5 million, a figure that Green Bay should not even sniff in terms of the offer. More realistically, Grady Jarrett of the Falcons just signed a four year, $68 million deal that should be closer to the ballpark in which Clark deserves. 

Averaging out to $17 million per season, that may still be a bit too high for the Packers to swallow, as contract guru Russ Ball and general manager Brian Gutekunst are needing to manage their books for their next wave of contract extensions. 

Giving Clark a five year, $72 million deal would be a bit lower compared to the recent deals, but front-loading the deal while backing off the guaranteed value as the deal progresses may be enough to entice Clark to agree.

Clark had his option picked up for 2020, so Green Bay has another season and offseason to make an agreement with Clark, but it never hurts to start figuring out the specifics of his cap ramifications.

Who can be counted on to replace Mike Daniels’ production?

With the release of Daniels and him signing with the Lions, there is now a bit of a gap in the defensive linemen rotation. Even with how injured Daniels was last season, he was still a great addition to the team, and salary-cap constraints most likely were the cited reasons for his release. 

Besides Clark, players like Montravius Adams and Tyler Lancaster will be called upon to fill key plays in the middle, but both of the Smiths could be shifted inside during pass-rushing situations too, making sure that the best players are on the field when needed.

Seeing Daniels twice a season is going to be tough, but playing for the Lions is the best possibility if he was going to stay in the division. Having stayed away from signing with both the Bears and Vikings is a positive, but it remains to be seen how much Daniels truly has left in the tank.

Can Montravious Adams make that expected jump into the regular rotation?

Speaking of Adams, Pettine has publicly backed him up during training camps this season, speaking about how he seems to be one of the most improved players on the field based on last season’s performance.

In 2018, Adams had 18 combined tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble, which look low but for defensive tackles, their main roles are to clog up space and not necessarily make it on the stat sheet. If Adams can take a page or two out of Clark’s book for techniques and rushing, then he has the tools to make that next step and become that next piece in the Green Bay defensive linemen puzzle.

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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