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Seahawks made right call trading Frank Clark despite Chiefs’ success

Jake Heaps says the Seahawks still made the right decision to trade Frank Clark. (Getty)

Former Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark has made media waves over the last few weeks for both his play in the playoffs, as well as his what he said to the media before and after the AFC Championship.

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Clark, who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, made a bold proclamation before the title game against the Tennessee Titans, saying he didn’t think Tennessee’s star running back Derrick Henry, who is 6-foot-3, weighs roughly 250 pounds and led the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns, was hard to tackle. This was with Henry coming into the conference title game having run for 588 yards over his last three games.

“He’s not hard to hit,” Clark told the NFL Network. “He’s just a big guy. (He weighs) 240, 245, 250 (pounds), honestly he should be running harder at his weight and at his size. I don’t see no difficulty in tackling him.”

The comments went all over social media, with many believing Clark bit off more than he could chew. Clark and the Chiefs backed up that talk, however, limiting Henry to 69 rushing yards, his worst rushing performance since Week 9.

After the game, Clark responded to those who doubted him with an expletive-filled rant.

“They must not know who I am yet,” he said. “They gonna find out sooner or later when I got that (Super Bowl) ring on my finger. At the end of the day, we (expletive) champions. AFC.”

Clark was drafted by the Seahawks in 2015 and quickly became a key player on Seattle’s defensive line. In 2018, with the retirement of Cliff Avril and the trade of Michael Bennett, Clark became Seattle’s top edge rusher and he stepped up his game, finishing the season with 13 sacks.

After the Seahawks were unable to sign him to a contract extension, the organization used the one-year franchise tag on him, making his 2019 salary $17.1 million.

A few months later, the Seahawks traded Clark to the Chiefs for a 2019 first-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick. The two teams also swapped third-round picks in the 2019 draft. Shortly after the trade, Kansas City and Clark agreed to a five-year contract worth roughly $105 million.

Seattle used the first-round pick to draft defensive end L.J. Collier and later used the third-round pick from Kansas City to trade up in the third round to take linebacker Cody Barton.

In 2019 with the Chiefs, Clark had eight sacks in 13 regular season games before taking off this postseason, compiling four sacks in two games. If he had played for the Seahawks in 2019 and had the same regular season statistics, he would have been the team leader in sacks by a wide margin. Rasheem Green led the Seahawks with just four sacks, and the team was tied for the second-fewest sacks in the league.

Clark showed both in his recent interviews, as well as last season with the Seahawks, that he has a clear edge to him, one that was sorely missing from Seattle’s defense in 2019.

“For the Seattle Seahawks, it’s great to establish culture that has great camaraderie and you feel connected with one another … but ultimately, this defense did not have the same bite, did not have the same edge,” Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy said. “And there were good football players on that defense, but it lacked the violence and the speed and physicality and personality to represent a top-10 defense in this league. And you need players like Frank Clark, who showed last year that he was willing to step up and say things and stand up for his teammates, stand up for his defense and make proclamations like this and back it up.”

In 2018, Clark was asked about the defense since Kam Chancellor retired, Earl Thomas was injured and Richard Sherman had signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He responded by saying their time was gone and it was his defense now.

Despite Clark’s edge and successful play, as well as Seattle’s inability to sack and pressure opposing quarterbacks, Heaps thinks the Seahawks still did the right thing in trading him when they did.

“Cap space and longevity,” Heaps said for why the trade was correct, even in hindsight. “You have to make some of those decisions and you have to be able to buy yourself more time.”

When Seattle traded Clark, the team didn’t have as much financial flexibility as it does now. Additionally, trading Clark helped Seattle go from having just four picks to 11 picks in the 2019 draft when all was said and done, and they still have the second-round pick from Kansas City in the upcoming draft.

“If you keep Frank Clark, maybe you only get six draft picks available to you in the 2019 draft,” Heaps said. “You may not have (receiver) DK Metcalf. You may not have (defensive back) Ugo Amadi or some of these other players who are good depth pieces for you, foundational pieces that you need to make a Super Bowl run … (the Seahawks now) are in a position where you can go get more high-level, impact talent in free agency and through the draft this year. That’s what (that trade) set them up to do.”

Trading Clark also ultimately opened up the door for the Seahawks to acquire Jadeveon Clowney from the Houston Texans. Though Clowney had just three sacks in 13 games, he was dominant in stopping the run and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, even though he played the second half of the season injured.

“It wasn’t just the swap of Frank Clark for Jadeveon Clowney,” Heaps said. “It was Frank Clark for a whole bunch of draft picks and Jadeveon Clowney. So the fact that they were able to expand it from four picks to 11 picks, build depth, build their special teams up and get one or two extra players … that domino effect was very positive for the Seahawks.”

The Seahawks will look to re-sign Clowney this offseason, as he is a free agent. He could command a contract similar to Clark’s deal with the Chiefs given his play as well as his status as a former No. 1 pick.

The Seahawks now have the ninth-most cap space in the NFL heading into free agency, and have some players like tight end Ed Dickson and center Justin Britt who could be released to add even more cap space, meaning the team should have the funds to go out and pay Clowney, who has said he wants to play for a contender.

Listen to Heaps at this link or in the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps on Twitter.

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