According to sources from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jones agreed on Tuesday to a new deal with the Chiefs worth $85 million over four years with $37 million due at signing and $60 million in guarantees. The news comes after NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier in the day that both sides were “getting close” on a big-money contract extension.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 14, 2020
How does this affect the Packers and Clark? Well, Jones signing his massive new contract makes him the second high-value defensive tackle to sign a deal this offseason worth at least $21 million per season. DeForest Buckner also signed a four-year, $84 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts back in free agency back in March.
Clark, who has been angling to sign a contract extension with the Packers this offseason, is almost certainly going to want the same type of payday in his next deal, as he rightly should. The only problem is the 24-year-old nose tackle doesn’t hold much leverage on the Packers in terms of demanding a new contract right now.
The Packers already exercised the fifth-year option on Clark’s contract earlier this year, which will see him earn a base salary of $7.69 million in 2020, but they can also still franchise tag him for the 2021 season to delay any major decision-making until 2022 is on the horizon.
It's almost always a better financial payoff for a star player to wait until the end of their contract to sign their next deal when their leverage is their highest.
Kirk Cousins didn't get the first fully guaranteed contract on his skill – he had the leverage to demand it.
— Ken Ingalls – Packers Cap 💰 (@KenIngalls) July 14, 2020
Clark is coming off a career season for the Packers after tallying 62 total tackles, 62 total pressures, nine tackles for loss and six sacks in 2019, benefitting from the inserted presence of outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. While subpar interior talent surrounded him for most of the year, Clark still distinguished himself enough as a front force for the Packers defense that he earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
The question now is whether Clark is willing to wait for a lucrative new contract or if he will hold true to his interest in getting something in place before the 2020 season.
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How Will Clark Negotiations Proceed?
Clark has openly expressed his interest in signing a contract extension with the Packers since the days following the team’s blowout loss in the NFC championship game, but few details about his contract discussions have emerged in the past several months.
When Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel asked him in late January whether he would consider holding out of 2020 training camp without a new deal in place, Clark left the possibility open but also added he was hopeful the situation wouldn’t come to that because he is “not that kind of guy.”
Clark then provided an update at the end of June during an interview with Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, admitting the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated negotiations between both sides with much uncertainty about the league’s immediate future.
The biggest question for teams looking ahead to next year is how much the 2021 salary cap will be adjusted as a result of lost revenue during the 2020 season. The Packers are already facing difficult financial decisions next offseason with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, veteran center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King and running back Aaron Jones also set to become unrestricted free agents at the same time as Clark.
“I don’t really have a timeline on it of when I want it to get done,” Clark told Wilde. “I understand the business and I understand everything that’s going on. So I’m just being patient with everything and just working every day.”