Bears Positioned to Sign 3-Time Pro-Bowl Pass Rusher, Super Bowl Champ

Frank Clark, Chiefs

Getty Defensive end Frank Clark of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on during a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on January 8, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

A couple of top-flight edge rushers are about to hit the free agent market, and the Chicago Bears have nearly $100 million to make a run at one, or both, of them.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Monday, March 6, that the Kansas City Chiefs are likely to release defensive end Frank Clark after the two sides failed to reach a contract restructure agreement over the course of the previous week.

“Chiefs and Frank Clark’s agent Erik Burkhardt were unable to find common ground on a reworked deal during several conversations at the combine and the expectation now is that Kansas City will release the 29-year-old DE who is the NFL’s third all-time leading postseason sack leader, per sources,” Schefter tweeted.

Clark earned trips to three consecutive Pro Bowls between 2019-21, before helping lead the Chiefs to their second Super Bowl win in four years back in February. Clark has amassed between 24-29 quarterback pressures in each of his four seasons with the Chiefs, while also registering 23.5 total sacks over that span, per Pro Football Reference. He has forced a total of 14 fumbles and intercepted two passes during the course of his eight-year NFL career.

Clark’s release is likely to come soon, as he is set to earn $10 million in guaranteed salary if he remains on the Chiefs’ roster come March 19. Kansas City can save $21 million against the salary cap by cutting Clark before June 1 and will eat just shy of $7.7 million via a dead cap hit for the move, per Over The Cap.

The defensive end will play his ninth professional season at the age of 30 and has a projected market value of approximately $12.4 million annually, per Spotrac.

L.A. Rams Expected to Trade or Cut Linebacker Leonard Floyd

Leonard Floyd, Rams

GettyOutside linebacker Leonard Floyd of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates a sack during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

On the same day he reported Clark’s impending availability, Schefter also broke the news that the Los Angeles Rams are poised to part ways with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, though the team will attempt to trade him first.

“Rams are expected to release OLB Leonard Floyd if they cannot trade him first, per league sources,” Schefter tweeted. “Floyd has had at least nine sacks in each of the past three seasons.”

Floyd played his first four years with the Bears, though he didn’t quite find his stride until leaving town for sunny Southern California. Floyd was a starter all four seasons in Chicago, appearing in 54 regular season games for the team. He registered 18.5 sacks over those four campaigns and produced 49 quarterback pressures across his final two years with the Bears, per Pro Football Reference.

Since joining the Rams, Floyd has amassed 29 sacks and 98 quarterback pressures across three seasons. That is precisely the kind of production Chicago is looking to add to a defense that finished last in sacks in 2022 with just 20.

If he is released and not traded, Floyd won’t be available as early as Clark due to his contract situation. ESPN’s Field Yates reported Monday that the Rams would create just $3 million in salary cap space were they to cut the linebacker prior to June 1 and would be forced to assume a $19 million dead money hit. By releasing Floyd after June 1, the Rams can open up $15.5 million in cap space next season and spread the subsequent dead money hit over two seasons, including just $6.5 million against the cap in 2023.

Clark, Floyd Join Handful of Quality Pass Rushers Bears Can Pursue

GettyDefensive end Frank Clark of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 29, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Bears probably don’t have the capital necessary to trade for Floyd now as the team intends to hold onto the draft picks it has and add more to the mix. However, Chicago could easily entertain a trade for Floyd in May depending on how the upcoming NFL Draft shakes out.

Chicago is expected to trade the No. 1 overall pick, and could move down as many as two or even three times in the first round while still retaining a top-10 selection, which should provide them with a bevy of early- to mid-round selections over the next couple of years. However, Chicago would probably be better served to simply wait and make a play for Floyd after June 1, and look for other options on the edge if a different team bites on the pass rusher before then.

Clark, on the other hand, won’t cost the Bears anything accept his salary and is likely to be available in a matter of days. With a total of 58.5 sacks across the span of his career, Clark is a quality pass rusher though not necessarily a prolific one, save for his postseason performances. But the Bears need multiple players who can rush the passer and depending on what Chicago does in the draft, the team may need to acquire all of that help via free agency, which renders Clark a prime candidate.

If the Bears trade with the Houston Texans and pick at No. 2, they will be able to select any defender they want. If they move again to No. 4 via a deal with the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago risks edge rusher and potential generational talent Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama coming off the board to the Arizona Cardinals with the third-overall selection.

That wouldn’t have been as big of a problem a few days ago, with defensive tackle Jalen Carter likely still available with the fourth pick. However, Carter may fall out of the top 10 after Georgia police issued arrest warrants for misdemeanor reckless driving and misdemeanor racing stemming from an incident that resulted in the death of both a UGA football player and UGA staff member.

Both character and availability questions have arisen in the aftermath of the news, which puts Carter’s status in question despite his ranking as the best prospect across all positions in the 2023 draft class, per ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

If the Bears are hesitant to make a move for Carter at No. 2 or No. 4, the team may just trade down again with the Las Vegas Raiders (No. 7) or Carolina Panthers (No. 9) and look to pick up a player like left tackle Peter Skoronski out of Northwestern who can address another major need on the roster.

In that scenario, a player like Clark makes a lot of sense at a reasonable annual figure of $12 million, give or take, over the next two or three years. Floyd will turn 31 years old in September and had a 2022 valuation of approximately $11 million, per Over The Cap. That number is roughly $3.5 million higher than OTC’s valuation of Clark, meaning Floyd would likely command a little more money per season should Chicago pursue him.

Yannick Ngakoue of the Colts and Marcus Davenport of the New Orleans Saints are also free agent options the Bears may take a run at to bolster the pass rush, as the rebuild now begins in Chicago.

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