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John Clayton breaks down Seahawks’ decision to franchise Frank Clark

The Seahawks used their franchise tag on Frank Clark in March. (Getty)

Frank Clark was officially franchised by the Seahawks on Monday. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

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Even though it was reported Clark and the Seahawks were making progress in negotiations for a long-term deal – a rumor I don’t question – it was going to be pretty tough to be come up with a deal. The difference between the franchise tag number and the price for a top edge rusher is too tricky thanks to the recent deals signed by Chicago’s Khalil Mack and the Rams’ Aaron Donald.

Pro Bowl-caliber pass-rushers with 13 or more sacks can ask for over $20 million a year. That’s certainly the case with Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who was probably going to cost $20 million a year on a long-term deal for the Cowboys. Instead, his second franchise tag took his 2019 pay to $20.5 million.

Lawrence probably wanted much more than $20 million, so he said no. Now he’s saying he’s not going to play under the franchise tag. We’ll see about that – Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell will never make up the lost money from his $14.5 million franchise tag by sitting out the season.

It’s hard to tell whether Clark will hold out, but you would think he would show up and play. He’s a leader for the Seahawks. He loves playing the game. After watching the Earl Thomas holdout prior to last season, he knows being out of camp will create a non-negotiation period; the Seahawks won’t negotiate with him if he’s out of camp.

One of the little twists of last week was the new salary cap came in $1.8 million under the expected $190 million. The NFL Players Association pushed a little more money into benefits and reduced the cap. One of the benefits was changing the performance pool and increasing the payout to veterans.

The previous performance pool gave around $169 million based on playing time. Rookies and veterans were all part of the pool. In 2019, teams will be putting up $7 million each – $224 million – into a pool that will pay better and exclude players with less than one accrued season.

With the cap going from $177.2 million in 2018 to $188.2 million this year, the franchise number for defensive ends actually dropped from $17.143 million to $17.128 million. In the big picture the savings for the Seahawks is minimum, but having a little less cap room than expected will make things tougher. And the thought that the 2020 cap might not jump big time could make it harder to get deals done with Clark, Russell Wilson and other top players set to hit free agency after next season.

Under the franchise tag, Clark and the Seahawks still have until July 15 to agree on a long-term deal and nullify the franchise tag. In most circumstances, franchise tag deals often don’t get done until the deadline.

Deadlines get deals done in the NFL.

But what needs to be established is the market and the price for the Frank Clarks and DeMarcus Lawrences of the world. As expected, the top four edge rushers set to become free agents – Lawrence, Clark, Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney and Kansas City’s Dee Ford – were franchised. Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, signed a three-year deal for around $13 million a year.

Trey Flowers of the New England Patriots might command the top dollar for edge pass rushers now that the Patriots aren’t going to franchise him. He might get around $15-16 million per year.

I still think Clark’s value is around $17.5 million a year, but you knew the Seahawks weren’t going to let him go elsewhere. He’s too valuable to the team, which is why he’s only the second player to be franchised since John Schneider and Pete Carroll took over the Seahawks.

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