Kenny Clark

NFC Notes: Hunter, Ertz, Godwin, Lee, Packers

When Danielle Hunter signed his Vikings extension in the summer of 2018 — a five-year, $72MM pact — most viewed it as a team-friendly agreement. With Khalil Mack soon raising the edge rusher price ceiling to $23.5MM per year, Hunter’s contract quickly became a bargain for the Vikings. On average, Hunter’s $14.4MM-per-year price now ranks 17th among edge defenders. Zero-time Pro Bowlers like Dante Fowler and Arik Armstead signed for more than Hunter makes this offseason. Perhaps unsurprisingly, whispers have emerged that the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end is unhappy with his contract, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (Insider link). Hunter has three 12-plus-sack seasons and has recorded 14.5 in each of the past two. While Fowler expects the Vikings to address the issue at some point, they have him under team control through 2023. The 25-year-old defensive end is currently on Minnesota’s IR list.

Here is the latest from the NFC, shifting first to another contract issue:

  • Zach Ertz‘s Eagles situation certainly became one to monitor, with the Pro Bowl tight end voicing his frustrations about his future with the franchise and reportedly engaging in a heated discussion with GM Howie Roseman. The changing tight end marketplace, as could be expected, has impacted Ertz’s extension discussions. The deals the 49ers and Chiefs respectively gave George Kittle and Travis Kelce complicated the Eagles’ Ertz talks, forcing them to stall, Fowler adds. Ertz is under contract through 2021, but his $8.5MM-per-year deal is now well out of step with the top of the market. Kelce and Kittle recently signed for more than $14MM annually.
  • Sean Lee‘s latest injury moved him to the Cowboys‘ IR list, and he may be there for a while. Teams can move players from IR back to active rosters after three weeks this season, but the sports hernia surgery the injury-prone linebacker underwent is expected to shelve him for at least six weeks, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes. The Cowboys are down Lee and Leighton Vander Esch, after what turned out to be a rough opening week for the team. Vander Esch, whom Lee replaced in a three-down role alongside Jaylon Smith late last season, is expected to miss more than six weeks as well. Joe Thomas is set to team with Smith as a three-down player against the Falcons.
  • The Buccaneers have downgraded Chris Godwin from doubtful to out for their Week 2 game against the Panthers. Godwin developed concussion-like symptoms midweek and remains in the team’s protocol.
  • A groin injury Kenny Clark suffered in Week 1 will sideline him for the Packers‘ Week 2 tilt against the Lions. Clark left last week’s game, leaving Green Bay without its top defensive lineman for the time being.

Packers, Kenny Clark Agree To Extension

The Packers have agreed to a four-year, $70MM extension with Kenny Clark (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com). The nose tackle will receive a $25MM signing bonus and he’ll earn $37MM over the first two years of the deal.

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Before, Clark was due $7.69MM in the walk year of his rookie contract. The re-up makes Clark the 12th-highest paid defensive player in the NFL. It’s more money than some expected for Clark, but he made a strong case by registering 12 sacks over the past two seasons. At the age of 24 (25 in October), he’s one of the game’s better interior defenders, and he now has a deal to reflect his status.

His performance is even more impressive when considering that he was slowed by an elbow injury in 2018. Despite the early end to his season, Clark graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 ranked interior lineman that year while posting 55 total tackles. This past year, he had a perfect attendance card and set a new career high in stops (62).

Clark’s deal marks yet another major Packers investment in defensive talent. After shelling out big bucks for edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, giving safety Adrian Amos a $9MM-per-year contract deal, and drafting two Round 1 defenders, they’ve shored up the middle with Clark.

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Kenny Clark Not Planning Holdout

Top Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark is now in a contract year. The Packers picked up his fifth-year option — worth $7.69MM — in May of last year but have not initiated extension talks with their 2016 first-rounder yet.

While Clark did not guarantee he will be present for all Green Bay offseason workouts, he does not want to wage a holdout.

Hopefully, I don’t have to do anything like that,” Clark said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t think it will come to that.”

The Packers made an aggressive effort to strengthen their defense this past offseason, shelling out big money for edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, giving Adrian Amos a $9MM-AAV contract and drafting two defenders in Round 1. Clark, however, would seemingly be a priority given his abilities up front. Clark has been extension-eligible since January 2019, but teams are often not keen on extending ex-first-rounders prior to their fifth-year option seasons.

I hope it happens sometime soon,” Clark said of extension talks. “They’re not really (at a point) where they’re actually getting into it, talking. I’m pretty sure at some point they will. Somebody will have to break the ice and talk.

After registering 12 sacks over the past two seasons, Clark has become one of the better interior defenders in the game. Although the Packers have the Smiths locked down through 2022 on major commitments, their summer release of Mike Daniels left their defensive line without a notable veteran deal. It would seem Clark is primed to fill that space, but the team has not approached this prospect yet.

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Playoff Injury Updates: Seahawks, Brown, Iupati, Fant, Titans, Brown, Packers, Clark

The latest injury news for the divisional round games:

  • The Seahawks’ offensive line is in dire shape. Starting left guard Mike Iupati is listed as doubtful, and it looks like he’ll miss his second straight game. Even more concerning, head coach Pete Carroll said both tackles Duane Brown and George Fant would be game-time decisions. Brown has missed the last few games, and Fant has been filling in for him at left tackle. Fant played 100 percent of the snaps in Seattle’s win over Philly last week, but is dealing with a groin injury. If he’s unable to go the plan is to start Chad Wheeler at left tackle, per Joe Fann of NBC Sports. Wheeler signed to Seattle’s practice squad back in October, and hasn’t appeared in a regular season game since October. He started a bunch of games for the Giants the previous two seasons, with disastrous results. If he’s forced into the lineup, the Packers’ pass-rushing duo of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith will be licking their chops.
  • The Titans will be without a key piece of their defense as they look to pull off a second straight upset against the Ravens. Starting inside linebacker Jayon Brown has been ruled out for this weekend’s game. Brown started against the Patriots last week, but left the game with a shoulder injury. It’s a blow to Tennessee’s run defense as they look to slow down the league’s best rushing attack.
  • The Titans might not be the only team without a key defensive piece. Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who started all 16 games this season, is being listed as questionable. Clark was on a tear down the stretch, racking up 4.5 sacks in Green Bay’s last four games. If he doesn’t go it’ll help mitigate some of Seattle’s offensive line losses.

Injury Notes: Ingram, 49ers, Thielen, Fuller

With every team booked into divisional-round action having now begun practice, here is the latest from the injury front going into Round 2. We’ll start with a midweek Vikings setback:

  • Stefon Diggs has missed two Vikings practices because of illness this week, but Mike Zimmer expects him to suit up in San Francisco. However, Adam Thielen suffered an ankle injury at practice and was limited on Wednesday as a result. Thielen was not on Minnesota’s Tuesday injury report. The Pro Bowl wideout missed much of this season with a hamstring injury. He caught seven passes for a game-high 129 yards against the Saints.
  • The NFL’s other purple-wearing team will likely go into its second-round game with backfield uncertainty. Previously expected to return for the Ravens‘ playoff opener, Mark Ingram has missed both Ravens practices this week. Ingram experienced a setback with his injured calf last week, leading to the Ravens to shut him down for a bit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). The Ravens are indicating there is a “realistic chance” Ingram plays. Baltimore backup Gus Edwards‘ 5.2 yards per carry ranked third in the NFL this season.
  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander has been cleared for game action, per Rapoport (video link), meaning it’s now Kyle Shanahan‘s call on whether to redeploy the high-priced defender Saturday. The 49ers used their second IR-return spot on Alexander, who is attempting to return from a midseason pectoral tear, but have not activated him yet.
  • Winding down an oft-injured season, Dee Ford is back at 49ers practice and appears ready to return at a key juncture. The veteran defensive end has dealt with a few maladies, his most recent being a hamstring issue that he aggravated in December. Ford’s gone through limited practices the past two days.
  • One of the NFL’s most important No. 2 wideouts, Will Fuller is trending in the right direction for the Texans‘ divisional-round rematch in Kansas City. The Texans expect their deep threat to return against the Chiefs, Rapoport tweets. Fuller was limited Wednesday. Deshaun Watson‘s QBR figure is 16 points higher when Fuller is on the field compared to when he’s not. The injury-prone wideout missed six games this season, the latest because of the groin injury he sustained in December.
  • Among the healthiest of the divisional-round teams, the Packers will have their right tackle back in the mix. Bryan Bulaga suffered a concussion in Week 17 but passed the protocol Wednesday, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Kenny Clark, however, missed practice with a back injury. The contract-year defensive lineman played all 16 Packer games this season.

Packers DT Kenny Clark Hires Doug Hendrickson

As he gears up for what promises to be a highly-lucrative contract extension, Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark has hired veteran NFL agent Doug Hendrickson, as Liz Mullen of SportsBusinessJournal.com reports (via Twitter). Clark will be represented by Hendrickson and his Wasserman colleague, CJ LaBoy.

Green Bay exercised Clark’s fifth-year option a few months ago, so they have him under club control through the 2020 campaign. However, the 2016 first-rounder has established himself as a very good interior defender, and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, echoing reports we heard earlier this year, suggests that player and team could work out a long-term deal before Clark becomes a free agent (Twitter link).

Last year, the 23-year-old (24 in October) put up a career-high six sacks and matched his 2017 tackles total with 55. Unfortunately, his season was halted by an elbow injury in December, but he was Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 ranked interior lineman in the NFL when he was placed on IR. GM Brian Gutekunst recently called Clark a “dominant player,” and he will be paid accordingly.

Currently, Lions DT Damon Harrison is pacing the 3-4 defensive tackle market with an average annual value of $11.25MM, but Clark’s play thus far suggests that he offers more as a pass rusher than Snacks. Excluding Jets rookie Quinnen Williams, who received a fully-guaranteed pact as a result of his status as the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, the $25MM in guaranteed money that the Bears gave to Eddie Goldman last September is currently the highest guaranteed payout for a 3-4 DT.

Another season like his 2018 campaign would likely allow Clark to top Harrison’s AAV and Goldman’s guarantees. It would not be surprising to see him land a contract paying him $12-13MM per year with $35MM or so in guaranteed money.

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NFC Notes: Packers, Clark, Lynch, Giants

The Packers made the surprising decision to cut Mike Daniels earlier today, and GM Brian Gutekunst confirmed that the club did try to trade Daniels first (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). It sounds as if Green Bay made some headway in trade talks, but the talks broke down over the last couple of weeks. Gutekunst also mentioned Daniels’ foot injury as a factor in the decision.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • The decision to cut Daniels has opened the door for the Packers to sign NT Kenny Clark to a lucrative extension, as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Silverstein suggests (via Twitter) that such a deal could happen at the end of the season.
  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic suggests that, although John Lynch is the 49ers‘ GM, he is primarily in charge of the defense, while head coach Kyle Shanahan picks the offensive talent. And Lynch has missed on a few major decisions on the defensive side of the ball, so if that unit should struggle again, not only will defensive coordinator Robert Saleh be in danger of losing his job, but Lynch could be as well.
  • The Giants worked out free agent safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Tre Boston several days ago, but Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com does not believe Big Blue is going to pay for a starting-caliber safety at this point (Twitter link). He thinks the club was simply doing its due diligence.
  • The Panthers will give Daryl Williams some reps at left tackle and left guard in training camp, per GM Marty Hurney (via Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic on Twitter). Williams signed a one-year deal in March to remain with Carolina, but Hurney is said to prefer Taylor Moton at right tackle — where Williams has spent most of his time as a pro — and the club drafted LT Greg Little in the second round this year. So if Williams is to earn the big FA contract that he missed out on this year, he may have to do so at an unfamiliar spot.
  • The Buccaneers have placed Jason Pierre-Paul on the active/non-football injury list, as James Palmer of the NFL Network tweets. Although a player on the active/NFI list can be activated from that list at any time before the start of the season, that will almost certainly not happen with JPP, who is expected to miss at least a chunk of the regular season.

Packers To Exercise Kenny Clark’s Option

The Packers intend to exercise the fifth-year option on Kenny Clark‘s contract, GM Brian Gutekunst says (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). The Packers technically have until the May 3 deadline to formally make the move. 

He’s a dominant player on the defensive front,” Gutekunst said of the defensive tackle.

Last year, Clark enjoyed a solid third pro season. The 23-year-old (24 in October) put up a career-high six sacks and matched his 2017 tackles total with 55. Unfortunately, his season was halted by an elbow injury in December, but he was Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 ranked interior lineman in the NFL when he was placed on IR.

After a strong showing in 2018, picking up Clark’s option was something of a no-brainer for Green Bay brass. With the move, the young standout will be under contract through the 2020 season.

You can keep track of every fifth-year option decision in the NFL with PFR’s handy tracker.

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Packers Place DL Kenny Clark On IR

A week after shutting down defensive tackle Kenny Clark for the season with an elbow injury, the team officially placed him on injured reserve on Tuesday, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets

He will be replaced on the roster by tackle Alex Light, who is coming off a one-game PED suspension, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets.

The injury that sidelined the breakout defensive lineman is not expected to need surgery, but with the Packers officially out of the playoff race, the team decided to sit him for the final three games.

In his third season in the league, Clark, 23, enjoyed his finest as a pro, boasting a career-high six sacks and equalling last’s season’s personal best of 55 tackles. The 2016 first-round pick emerged as the anchor of the Packers defensive line and as one of the league’s best all-around defensive tackles. When he went down with an injury, Clark was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the league’s ninth-best interior lineman.

In May, the Packers are expected to pick up his fifth-year option that will keep him in Green Bay through the 2020 campaign.

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Packers To Place DL Kenny Clark On IR

Kenny Clark emerged to become one of the league’s top interior linemen this season, but the third-year Packer’s slate will conclude early.

Green Bay plans to place Clark on IR, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Packers’ nose tackle is dealing with an elbow injury, but Pelissero adds that malady will not require surgery. But with the Packers set to miss the playoffs for a second straight year, they will shut down one of their top young talents.

Clark’s year will close with a career-high six sacks, to go along with two fumble recoveries. Pro Football Focus graded Clark’s 13-game 2018 work sample as the ninth-best thus far by an interior lineman.

The Packers seemingly have an easy decision on Clark’s fifth-year option in May. That would extend his rookie contract through the 2020 season.

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