Kenny Clark is hoping he won’t have to hold out in 2020 for a contract extension, but the Green Bay Packers star nose tackle isn’t ruling out the possibility.
While the Packers have already exercised Clark’s fifth-year option for the 2020 season, the former first-round draft pick is looking to lock down a new deal this offseason that would keep him in Green Bay for the foreseeable future. But one day after the Packers’ season-ending loss in the NFC Championship game, Clark told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein on Monday no serious discussions have yet taken place nor does he know when they will.
“I’m just waiting on them, really,” Clark said Monday, via the Journal Sentinal. “I can’t do nothing about it. I just have to keep playing.”
Clark has certainly done his part to earn a long-term extension after starting all 18 games this year, including both in the postseason, and maintaining his reputation as one of the NFL’s elite run stoppers with 62 tackles, six sacks, seven quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career as an alternate for the Rams’ Aaron Donald.
Asked whether he would consider holding out of offseason or training camp to force talks, though, Clark said he “hopefully” would not need to do anything of the sort because he is “not that kind of guy.” He also added that he didn’t think either side would let it come down to that.
“I think it’s one of those situations where, I think they’re going to want me here for a long time,” Clark said. “I think I’m a stable player and I’m a core player here. I think they want me to be here and they’re going to try to do everything they can to keep me here.
I just have to be level-headed and pray about it. I have confidence. I believe with their history, they don’t let guys they want to be here, they don’t really let them leave.”
Clark is due to earn a salary of $7.69 million next season and would become an unrestricted free agent if he were somehow to make it to the 2021 offseason without inking a new deal.
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Packers Can’t Afford to Lose Clark
It’s a good thing Clark wants to stay with the Packers because their defensive line probably couldn’t withstand the loss, even a year from now. The additions of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith did help beef up the pass rush, but they are both outside linebackers and can’t satisfy the same needs.
Defensive end Dean Lowry seemed like a promising piece coming into the season, but both he and Tyler Lancaster were too inconsistent to give Clark much help this season. It was even worse for Clark’s backup, Montravius Adams, who started the first two games before almost completely disappearing on the depth chart. He played just 50 defensive snaps after Week 11’s bye week.
If anything, the Packers need another solid defensive lineman to complement Clark’s strong play and solidify their run defense after it was a gaping hole in all four of their losses in 2019. They could turn to the draft again with one of their early-round picks, but there is more immediacy in adding a low-cost free agent with some experience this offseason — not that the cap is overly friendly this year.
Either way, the Packers will have to address the shortcomings of their defensive line this offseason if they want to remain in a position to contend next year.