Some might have looked at it as a gamble — and may still — but this might very well be the best trade that John Schneider and the Seahawks have pulled off in his tenure.
On Tuesday, two days before the opening round of the 2019 NFL Draft kicks off in Nashville (!), the Hawks sent star defensive end Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for an Easter basket full of goodies: the Chiefs’ first round draft pick in 2019, their second round pick in 2020, a swap of 3rd round picks in 2019, and cap space, glorious salary cap space.
Clark isn’t hurting either, cashing in on his asking price of $21 million per year on a new 5-year contract, a total of $105.5 million with $63.5 million guaranteed. In the wake of Russell Wilson’s big money bingo, it was a price Seattle just wouldn’t and couldn’t be willing to pay. We’ll get into the logistics of QB salary another time.
That’s not to say they didn’t think Clark was worth it. And this is the brilliance of this trade.
Back in early March, the team placed the franchise tag on Clark, locking him into at least one more season with the squad. This would’ve paid him $17.1 million in 2019, a salary cap hit the Hawks felt comfortable taking coming off of a career year by Clark. It wasn’t long before rumors of trade talks began to circulate, and with Russ becoming the highest paid player in the NFL and Bobby Wagner still yet to be signed, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Clark would be out the door.
Yet, Schneider was in the enviable position of holding all of the pieces on a chessboard that was all but blue and green. He could dangle Clark out on the market, sure he’d draw some attention but also comfortable enough to not have to jump at any deal just to move the guy. He had Clark essentially locked into another year, the likelihood being that the end would match and likely exceed his 2018 output and make him even more attractive on the market in 2020.
Beyond that, the Hawks are looking to clear some good money off the books against the cap in 2020, specifically no longer paying the retired Kam Chancellor. If the team wanted to re-sign Clark at that point, they would be in a far better position than this off-season.
And yet even beyond that, the defensive class of this year’s draft is seen as one of the strongest, particularly the defensive line prospects. It offers the Hawks a chance to restock with young guys who could contribute this year, if need be, or who could play behind Clark for at least a year and glean the system and the team culture from him.
All they had to do was put up the open sign and sit back, all but guaranteed a favorable outcome. On Tuesday, they got the most favorable.
Expect that nice BWagz signing before too long.
The Seahawks are currently one of four teams with two picks in the first round, the 21st and the 29th picks. They were already looking to shore up their edge rushing ability, but with Clark now gone to Arrowhead, expect this to be a big priority in the early parts of the draft.
That said, I fully expect they’ll trade back on the 21st pick to try to secure some extra picks in the middle rounds. Stocking the O-line is ever a need in Seattle and it would be good to pick up a receiver, but this is a team that likes to go with D early. I’d expect they’ll try for an end, a cornerback, and someone to help MacDougald fill in the Earl Thomas-sized hole in the secondary. Seeing a lot of mentions of Clelin Ferrell out of Clemson or Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, the back out of Gainesville. Probably along the lines of what you should expect early.
How great would it be for the Hawks to get another “Tez” on the team in Montez Sweat from Mississippi State? Almost seems fitting.
They may also trade back on the 29th, but having the two first rounders now allows them to have their cake and shove it down offenses’ throats. Be sure to shake John Schneider’s hand for that.