JUNE 15: Clark’s guarantee checks in at $5MM, GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer tweets. The Broncos will spread out the veteran edge defender’s $4.24MM signing bonus using void years, a common Payton-era Saints practice. As a result of the through-2026 void years, Clark’s 2023 cap number checks in at just $2.27MM.
JUNE 8: Another domino on the edge-rushing front fell Thursday afternoon. Not long after Leonard Floyd agreed to terms with the Bills, Frank Clark is set to join the Broncos. The former Seahawks and Chiefs edge defender intends to sign with Denver, The Score’s Jordan Schultz tweets.
Clark spent the past four years in Kansas City, but after being the team’s top edge player throughout that term, the Super Bowl champions released him ahead of free agency. The Broncos entered Thursday with a less certain edge group, one dependent on Randy Gregory staying healthy. Clark stands to add a veteran piece to the mix.
The Broncos will give Clark a one-year deal worth up to $7.5MM, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Close in numbers to Buffalo’s Floyd deal, Clark’s Denver accord will include a $5.5MM base salary guarantee. The other $2MM will be divided into incentives, with Schefter adding that $1MM comes via potentially achievable incentives while the other million will be classified as unlikely to be earned escalators. Floyd signed for $7MM guaranteed Monday, likely laying the groundwork for the Broncos and Clark.
Clark, who will turn 30 next week, did not live up to the monster extension he signed with the Chiefs upon being acquired via trade in 2019. Despite not producing a 10-sack season in Kansas City, the eight-year veteran has three Pro Bowls on his resume. A former second-round pick, Clark has tallied two double-digit sack slates. Both came with Seattle.
Upon designating Brandon McManus as a post-June 1 cut late last month, the Broncos freed up $3.75MM in 2023 cap space. That will end up going toward Clark’s guarantee, with Sean Payton noting post-release the team was looking into other areas on its roster. Clark and Payton spoke this week and “hit it off,” Schefter tweets. While the Broncos still have George Paton in place as GM, Payton almost definitely has considerable personnel power given what it took to acquire his rights this winter.
“The situation with Sean Payton is good for me,” Clark said, via CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson (on Twitter). “I get to play alongside Randy Gregory and stay in my in division that I am very familiar with. I also want to help the Broncos get back to the mountaintop.”
Clark will join a pass-rushing stable featuring Gregory, converted inside linebacker Baron Browning and 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto. The Broncos struggled to consistently generate pressure after trading Bradley Chubb last year, with Gregory on the shelf for much of the campaign. Browning also missed time due to injury, while Bonitto totaled just 1.5 sacks in 15 games. Denver carried considerable edge depth coming into its 2022 training camp, but after trading Malik Reed to the Steelers and seeing Gregory go down with a knee injury early in the season, the Broncos created a need by dealing Chubb to the Dolphins. Denver did not draft a defensive lineman or outside linebacker this year, though third-round pick Drew Sanders totaled 9.5 sacks from his inside linebacker post at Arkansas last season.
While Clark’s regular-season numbers in Kansas City left much to be desired — based on the five-year, $104MM deal he signed in 2019 — the former Michigan talent did produce in the playoffs. Clark totaled five postseason sacks for the 2019 Super Bowl champion Chiefs squad, three in 2020 and added 2.5 during Kansas City’s latest Super Bowl run. His 13 postseason sacks trail only Willie McGinest (16) and Bruce Smith (14.5) in NFL history. Clark, however, has not topped six sacks in a regular season since 2019.
Off-field trouble followed Clark to Kansas City. After a domestic violence arrest led to Michigan booting him from the team in 2014, Clark was arrested on two gun-related charges in 2021. He resolved both matters but served a two-game suspension last season. The Chiefs reworked his lucrative contract earlier in 2022, avoiding a cap-casualty transaction, but ended up parting ways with Clark a year after doing so. He will attempt to aid the Broncos as they aim to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season.