Kenny Clark signing a contract extension with the Green Bay Packers seems to be more a matter of “when” than “if” this offseason, but also worth considering: how much?
The Packers star nose tackle delivered a productive season for the third straight year and proved to be the strongest piece of Green Bay’s defensive line during the 2019 season, earning the first Pro Bowl selection of his career and starting in every game. Clark finished the year with a career-high 62 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble, thriving in the new pass-rushing dynamic that arrived with outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith last offseason.
At 24 years old, Clark has established himself as one of the NFL’s top interior defensive linemen and will rightly be looking to lock down a long-term future in Green Bay before heading into the final season of his five-year rookie deal. General manager Brian Gutekunst made it clear the Packers want the same thing during his end-of-year press conference in late January.
“Kenny is a big part of what we do, very important to our defense,” Gutekunst said. “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to come to some agreement at some point. These things don’t happen quickly usually. The idea was always to, some time this offseason, approach that, and we will.”
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Breaking Down Potential Cost of Clark’s Extension
No matter how you spin it, the cost of Clark’s next contract is going to be a doozy.
According to Spotrac projections, Clark could command about $18.2 million annually on his next deal with the calculated market value putting it at a five-year contract worth about $91 million. Such a deal would put him in the same earning bracket as some of his fellow NFL defensive linemen, including Tennessee’s Jurrell Casey (four years, $60.4 million), Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox (six years, $102.6 million) and Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett (four years, $68 million).
Aaron Donald is currently the highest-paid defensive lineman in the NFL with a six-year, $135 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams that will keep him signed through 2024, but Clark isn’t going to draw nearly that much in his next deal.
An evaluation from Ken Ingalls on Twitter mapped out a possibility where Clark would earn about $85.75 million on a five-year extension. In the possible scenario, Clark would earn a $25 million signing bonus with another $18.5 million guaranteed for his 2020 and 2021 base salaries and roster bonuses. Ingalls notes the hypothetical deal would increase Clark’s total cap hit in 2020 from $7.69 million to $14.25 million, further limiting the Packers’ spending potential.
As Zach Kruse of Packers Wire noted, though, Clark could wait to see how the market reacts with some other defensive lineman heading into unrestricted free agency. Among the biggest names to watch will be Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, while a flurry of other defensive linemen could sign price-driving deals even if they are valued lower than Clark.
Kruse estimated Clark would sign for five years, $87.5 million with a $25 million signing bonus and $40 million guaranteed, noting “most of the top defensive lineman contracts are guaranteed at 60 percent or more the total value but the Packers rarely go that high.”