O’Neil: 1.5 years later, it’s clear Seahawks were right to trade Frank Clark
The Seahawks are better off for having traded defensive end Frank Clark.
I know, I know. I’m a little late given that the trade occurred a year and a half ago. But it takes time to really weigh these things out. I might also sound a little naïve since Clark has a Super Bowl ring he helped the Kansas City Chiefs earn last season and the Seahawks have spent the past year and a half using all sorts of stop-gap measures to cobble together a pass rush. But it’s true. Would you rather have:
B) L.J. Collier, Damien Lewis and Alton Robinson. Those are the three players that Seattle acquired using the two picks the Chiefs traded to the Seahawks for the right to sign Clark to a five-year, $104 million contract before the 2019 draft. Seattle chose Collier with the Chiefs’ 2019 first-round pick and this year traded the second-round pick it got from Kansas City for the third-round choice used to choose Lewis and the fifth-rounder needed for Robinson.
OK. Now, don’t forget you also have to consider what Seattle did with the $32 million it didn’t pay Clark over the past 18 months. That’s how much Kansas City has already forked over with another $18.5 million in salary on the books for next season. The fact that Seattle wasn’t on the hook for that amount freed up the loot to sign – among others – Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and now Carlos Dunlap.
Not all of those players worked out. One – Ansah – was essentially a match that lit $8 million ablaze, but that’s actually the point. Seattle didn’t put itself in a position where one player absolutely had to work out. It was never leveraged the way it would have been had it committed to paying Clark more than $20 million a year like Kansas City did.
Are any one of the players Seattle acquired better than Clark? No. At least not yet. Clark is a borderline Pro Bowl player who had eight sacks last season and another four this year. Have all of those players – together – provided more value than Clark. Yes they have, and the Seahawks filled that void without letting it ride on one, single make-or-break investment.
That’s one of the risks teams don’t tend to talk about when making a big-budget buy. Nobody talks about what happens if that player gets hurt. Or loses motivation. Or just becomes less effective. No one talks about these things at press conferences, but it happens. And instead of taking that one big leap of faith with Clark, Seattle traded that player and instead acquired multiple players.
In effect, the Seahawks bought themselves some room for error.
Collier had a rookie season that barely registered, but that was offset – in large part – by the impact Clowney had. This year, Collier was responsible for the game-saving tackle of Cam Newton in Week 2 and drew the holding penalty that resulted in the safety against Arizona.
Clowney wanted more money than the Seahawks thought he was worth this season, and instead of feeling beholden to pay it because of a lack of alternatives, the Seahawks signed Mayowa and then made the room to add Dunlap when he wanted out of Cincinnati in October. Dunlap has 3.5 sacks with Seattle, which is more than Clowney had all of last season.
It’s not that the Seahawks are cheap. They’ll pay top dollar for guys at the top of their position, and not just the quarterback Russell Wilson. Earl Thomas. Kam Chancellor (twice). Richard Sherman. Marshawn Lynch. Bobby Wagner (twice). All have gotten deals that were toward the top of the pay grade at the position.
What Seattle has avoided is paying really good players as if they’re great, and if we’re being honest, that’s really what Clark is as a player. He’s a really good player who wouldn’t just start, but would make a difference on any team in this league. He’s also a borderline Pro Bowler as opposed to being an All-Pro.
That’s not to say Kansas City messed up. Clark had eight sacks last season, another four this year and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. Any acquisition that precedes a Super Bowl victory is automatically immunized from any further criticism. After all, there are still people in Seattle who’ll argue Percy Harvin was a worthwhile addition given that kickoff he returned for a touchdown, clinching the Super Bowl.
Entering this season, Seattle’s decision to deal Clark still cast a shadow over its pass rush. Clowney had bolted after a year, Ansah wasn’t with anyone in the league and the Seahawks’ pass rush looked like it was capable of being an albatross on the entire season.
But now? Seattle has two solid starters that are the result of the draft picks it acquired from Kansas City and a pass rush that is gaining speed.