When Vikings’ rookie center Garrett Bradbury was called on a holding penalty in last Sunday’s game, it wasn’t your average holding penalty: he was holding on for dear life. That’s because Kenny Clark, who has evolved into one of the best interior defenders in the entire league, absolutely manhandled him. Clark was a shark in the water; Bradbury was Long John Silver’s.
Clark, still only 23, devours interior offensive lineman like this one a weekly basis. Since coming into the league as a tender 20-year-old, Clark has steadily improved every year. His 2018 stats saw three passes defended, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, six sacks, and 55 tackles. His 2019 season is already off to another great start, with one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks. Teams are often forced to double-cover him out of fear.
The Green Bay Packers wisely exercised Clark’s fifth-year option, but the sooner a long-term deal is made, the better. Kenny Clark’s reign of dominance is only going to get stronger, and he should be a staple of Mike Pettine’s defense for years to come.
Thankfully, Clark’s fifth-year option keeps him in Green and Gold for at least the 2020 season, and comments from Clark and Brian Gutekunst imply a big deal is in the works.
“Kenny Clark is a dominant player in the NFL and we’d certainly like to get that done at some point,” Gutekunst said, according to packersnews.com.
Clark also hired respected NFL agent Doug Hendrickson in late August according to Liz Mullen of sportsbusinessjournal.com. This move, coinciding with his acknowledgment that “I know it’s coming,” show that both sides are making preparations for a deal as monstrous as Clark’s play on the field.
While it seems both sides are in a good place with discussion and while there is time, the price will only go up. This offseason, the Atlanta Falcons just locked up defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to a 4-year, $68 million deal, averaging $17 million a year. As far as 3-4 defensive tackles go, Detroit Lions Damon Harrison most recently set the market, with a one-year, $11.25 million extension.
Aaron Donald, arguably the best player in the NFL, sits atop the market with a six-year, $135 million contract, averaging $22.5 million a year. While Clark getting Donald money seems unlikely, his price likely rests between Donald and Jarrett. Clark will likely see somewhere in the $18-19 million a year range, and this cost could only go up with another spectacular year.
The Packers do have important cap considerations to consider with this forthcoming deal, as the team did just extend Aaron Rodgers to a mega-deal and has a lot of money tied up in Jimmy Graham’s deal and dead cap for Nick Perry. But Russ Ball is the best at what he does, and if anyone can make this deal work, it’s him.
The best part of extending Clark? By the time his new deal expires, he’s still likely only going to be 28-29. The potential for a third contract, a rarity in Green Bay, could easily be in the cards for Clark. Ted Thompson truly found a gem in Kenny Clark.
Kenny Clark is the exact type of player the Green Bay Packers should want long-term. He’s a homegrown, draft and developed talent. He’s a humble and generous man, as seen by his constant charity efforts (including being the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee). And he bursts through offensive lineman like the Kool-Aid Man. His draft mate Dean Lowry recently signed a new deal with the team, and the two should share the defensive line together for years to come.
Financial data for NFL players can be found at https://overthecap.com/position/interior-defensive-line/Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.