JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: The good – and bad – news for Seahawks following Danielle Hunter’s $72 million extension

Jun 28, 2018, 6:00 AM
Seattle Seahawks, Frank Clark...
The Seahawks will need a big year from DE Frank Clark after the departures of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. (AP)
(AP)

In what is supposed to be designated as a quiet time for the Seahawks, an important news story popped Wednesday morning.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter signed a five-year, $72 million extension. That deal has a massive impact on the Seahawks because defensive end Frank Clark is entering the final year of his contract.

Clayton: Sacks will be important to Seahawks, but how will they get them?

Whether good or bad for the Seahawks front office, Hunter’s signing gives guidance to what Clark could make in his next deal. Hunter was a third-round choice of the Vikings in 2015, while Clark was a second-round choice the same year. Both defensive ends played 46 games and started 17.

Hunter has registered 25.5 sacks over his three-year career, including a 12-and-a-half sack season in 2016. Clark has 22 sacks in his first three years, with 19 of those coming in the past two years.

Putting those numbers in perspective: Hunter has had the third-most sacks of any defensive player in their first three seasons since 2014 (behind the Raiders’ Khalil Mack and Rams’ Aaron Donald). Clark ranks sixth, behind the Falcons’ Vic Beasley and Chargers’ Joey Bosa.

It’s pretty safe to say Clark has a strong case to command a $14 million a year price tag.

The good of this for the Seahawks is it would be hard for Clark to ask for more than $14.4 million. This year, Clark can’t shoot for the $17 million-per-year contract given to Olivier Vernon of the New York Giants, nor the $17.1 million franchise tag of the Dallas Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence. (The bad part for the Seahawks is that $14 million is much higher than the now outdated $11 million-per-year contract of Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints.)

This puts Clark in a strong position. He now can ask for $14 million, or if he wants to gamble on himself and have a 12- or 13-sack season, he could shoot his price tag to $17 million a year.

Look what happened to Lawrence: He had only nine sacks in his first three years, but then exploded last year with a 14-and-a-half sack season, and now can ask for the $17 million-a-year contract.

The internal debate is to either pay him now or possibly pay much more later.

Paying him now might be the better option. The Seahawks have a lot of cap room for next year; they could pay Clark $14 million and still do extensions with K.J. Wright, Tyler Lockett, Justin Coleman, Duane Brown and maybe another player. Though a Clark deal could make it tougher to do something with Earl Thomas.

Nothing is happening with Thomas now because of his holdout. But let’s say Clark gets something done at the $14 million a year range. Thomas, knowing the top safety makes $13 million, might ask to top Clark’s deal, figuring he would believe he’s the best defensive player on the field.

Thanks to the Hunter deal, though, the lines are drawn for what could happen with Clark – and it is something that is doable for Seattle.

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Clayton: The good – and bad – news for Seahawks following Danielle Hunter’s $72 million extension