Frank Clark

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Draft, Purdy, 49ers, Ebukam, Clark, Seahawks, Staff

The Cardinals have fared well when picking in the top five over the past two decades, landing the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and Kyler Murray. The team’s second-half swoon last season led to a rebuild, giving a new regime the No. 3 overall pick. Similar to the Bears, the Cards are prepared to move down. GM Monti Ossenfort made that clear, Ian Rapoport of notes (video link). The team gave Murray a landmark extension last summer, and although Year 1 of that deal did not go well, he remains Arizona’s franchise quarterback. As such, the team will be prepared to move down to accommodate a QB-seeking team (or one eyeing the top non-passer available) that was unable to land Chicago’s pick. Such a move would bolster a roster that enters free agency with several holes.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Ossenfort also said the Cardinals have been in talks with free agents-to-be Zach Allen and Byron Murphy. The first-year GM indicated the Cardinals “would love” to keep both players, though he noted the obvious financial caveat (via’s Darren Urban) that could lead each out of town. Both were drafted to play in Vance Joseph‘s system in 2019, and each will be among the top free agents at their respective positions. If Murphy and Allen leave, cornerback and defensive line would become areas of dire need in Arizona. The Cards did not put much around Murphy since Peterson’s 2021 exit, and Allen following J.J. Watt off the roster would obviously put the onus on the NFC West squad adding reinforcements up front.
  • Brock Purdy‘s postponed elbow surgery will take place Friday, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets. The breakthrough 49ers quarterback was initially scheduled to undergo the UCL repair Feb. 22, but swelling led to a delay. The seventh-round pick who would be on track to retain his starting role is expected to face a six-month recovery timetable, which would run up against Week 1. This creates more QB uncertainty in San Francisco, though Trey Lance is on track to participate in OTAs. The plan remains for Purdy to have a less invasive elbow procedure, but he acknowledged Tommy John surgery — elbow reconstruction — could take place. The latter route would threaten to hijack Purdy’s 2023 season.
  • The 49ers discussed trading for Frank Clark before the veteran defensive end agreed to a Chiefs restructure in 2022, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. Clark is now available, having been a Chiefs cap casualty this week. The former Seahawks draftee’s 13.5 playoff sacks are the third-most in NFL history, but he never topped eight during a regular season with the Chiefs. The 49ers could consider Clark opposite Nick Bosa, with Samson Ebukam being viewed (via Jeremy Fowler of as likely to price himself out of San Francisco. Ebukam, 27, recorded 9.5 sacks in his two-year 49ers run. He could command an eight-figure-per-year deal, per Fowler, as this edge rusher market is fairly light. Even ahead of his age-30 season, Clark may not come much cheaper.
  • Azeez Al-Shaair figures to join Ebukam on the way out of the Bay Area, Barrows adds. The 49ers have already given Fred Warner a top-market contract, and they reached a midlevel agreement to retain ascending sidekick Dre Greenlaw last year. Al-Shaair will join a crowded off-ball linebacker market next week.
  • The Seahawks went through with some front office promotions recently. Nolan Teasley has moved into the role of assistant GM, while Matt Berry will become the team’s senior director of player personnel. Teasley has been with the team since 2013, moving up from the scouting level. Berry has been working with the Seahawks longer than GM John Schneider, having started with the team in 2008. Additionally, Willie Schneider will step into Beasley’s former role of pro personnel director. Aaron Hineline will replace Berry as director of college scouting.
  • The Seahawks’ recent Phil Haynes deal will be a one-year, $4MM pact, Brady Henderson of tweets. The prospective guard starter will receive a fully guaranteed $1.3MM base salary and a $2.2MM signing bonus.

Chiefs Release DE Frank Clark

MARCH 7: In a tweet thanking Clark for his contributions over the past four seasons, the Chiefs announced the separation Tuesday. Clark will have a head start on finding a new home in free agency.

MARCH 6: The Chiefs and Erik Burkhardt, current agent for defensive end Frank Clark, were reportedly unable to work out an extension heading into the final year of Clark’s current two-year contract, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. With no new deal getting done to lessen the financial burden on Kansas City, and with Clark set to have a cap hit in 2023 of $28.68MM, the expectation is that the Chiefs will release Clark.

The two parties have been attempting to work out a cheaper way forward with one of their defensive stars who is third all-time in postseason sacks, but this year’s Super Bowl run gave them a delayed start in negotiations. Having failed to reach any common ground in efforts towards a renegotiated deal, Kansas City will not want to be responsible for the entirety of Clark’s massive cap hit. Releasing Clark will result in $21MM of cap savings and only $7.68MM in dead money.

If the Chiefs go that route, Clark will join this year’s free agent class. With a previous annual average value of $15.09MM, Clark was the league’s fifth highest paid defensive end. He likely becomes the top free agent option alongside fellow Super Bowl LVII participants Robert Quinn and Brandon Graham. Yannick Ngakoue and Jadeveon Clowney will also be top signing options this offseason.

Though the Chiefs and Clark may be parting ways, it may not be the end of Clark’s time in Kansas City. The 29-year-old may find, after testing the waters, that what the Chiefs have to offer is the best fit for him. Regardless, he’ll have that opportunity to test his market value if the Chiefs move forward with these plans.

Chiefs Eyeing New Deals For Chris Jones, Frank Clark

The Chiefs have a number of key decisions to make in their attempt to retain as many core pieces of their Super Bowl winning roster as possible. That will likely include moves keeping their two most expensive defenders in place beyond the coming season.

Both defensive tackle Chris Jones and edge rusher Frank Clark are under contract for 2023. However, their deals are each scheduled to carry cap hits over $28MM, which would be a significant obstacle to the team’s other priorities, such as a long-term deal for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. New contracts (rather than restructures) for both Jones and Clark could thus be mutually beneficial for team and player.

“The good thing for us is that we have these strong connections with these players that have played here a long time,” general manager Brett Veach said on the subject this week, via Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “They love being here. That’s a good starting point for us.”

Jones is likely to be a higher priority from the Chiefs’ perspective, but working out a new deal with the 28-year-old won’t be a simple matter. Taylor reports that Jones is seeking a contract which will make him “at least” the second-highest paid interior d-lineman in the league, behind only Aaron Donald. The latter agreed to a massive restructure last offseason, bringing his average annual compensation over $31.6MM. Jones currently sits at $20MM in that regard, which trails Donald, DeForest Buckner and Leonard Williams.

Jones remained a crucial member of Kansas City’s defense in 2022. He matched his career high with 15.5 sacks, setting a new personal mark in tackles with 44 and playing time with an 80% snap share. The former second-rounder earned a First-Team All-Pro nod, along with Pro Bowl recognition for the fourth straight season. A deal flattening his 2023 cap hit would pay dividends, of course, but Jones’ continued production could leave the Chiefs in a similar situation to that of wideout Tyreek Hill last year. The latter’s contract demands led the team to trade him to Miami, a deal which allowed them to divert resources elsewhere on the roster.

Clark re-worked his contract last offseason, something which came as a surprise given the expectation that he would be destined to leave in free agency. That possibility remains once again in 2023, as Taylor notes that a release prior to free agency is a consideration for the team to save much-needed cap space. A March cut would lead to $21MM in savings and a dead cap hit of $7.6MM. Veach stressed his desire to talk with Clark’s agents in the hopes of finalizing an extension before that becomes necessary though, adding that Kansas City would remain interested in re-signing the 29-year-old if he were to be cut and allowed to test the open market.

The Chiefs still have work to do to become cap compliant, something which will become more difficult assuming a second franchise tag is placed on Brown in the coming days. Extensions for at least one of Jones or Clark could be coming soon to grant the team flexibility to afford a multi-year Brown deal, while keeping the team’s defensive leaders in place for at least the intermediate future.

NFL Suspends Chiefs DE Frank Clark

Despite a high cap number and two 2021 arrests on gun charges, Frank Clark managed to stick around with the Chiefs this year. But the veteran defensive end will be forced out of the picture for a stretch.

The NFL handed Clark a two-game suspension Tuesday, Adam Teicher of reports (on Twitter). The personal conduct policy ban will sideline the Chiefs’ top edge rusher for matchups against the Titans and Jaguars. Those games come after Kansas City’s Week 8 bye. No appeal will take place, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets.

Clark, who agreed to a reworked contract to stay with the Chiefs in March, has faced NFL punishment for over a year. Both his aforementioned arrests came during the 2021 offseason. While Clark resolved those criminal issues in September, the league still acted here.

In March 2021, the three-time Pro Bowler was arrested for possession of a concealed firearm. In June 2021, he was arrested again when police officers conducted a traffic stop and noticed an Uzi in an open bag in Clark’s vehicle. Clark pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor possession of an assault weapon, and he was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service. Although a Clark domestic violence incident at Michigan led to his dismissal from the Wolverines in 2014, this is the veteran pass rusher’s first NFL suspension.

While Clark was not especially consistent during his first three seasons as a Chief, the team brought its 2019 trade acquisition back for a fourth year by redoing his deal. The former Seahawks second-rounder is now attached to a two-year, $29MM agreement. This suspension would allow the Chiefs to void guarantees, but no guaranteed money remains on Clark’s deal beyond 2022.

This season, Clark has three sacks — including a Week 7 safety in the Chiefs’ rout of the 49ers — to lead Kansas City edge rushers. Although the team added Carlos Dunlap and drafted George Karlaftis in Round 1, Clark’s top sidekicks have combined for two sacks (both Dunlap’s). More will be on Dunlap and Karlaftis’ shoulders when the AFC West-leading team returns from its bye, though the Chiefs still have defensive tackle Chris Jones (five sacks) anchoring their pass rush.

Chiefs DE Frank Clark Resolves Criminal Charges

2021 was a difficult year for Chiefs DE Frank Clark from a legal perspective. In March 2021, the three-time Pro Bowler was arrested for possession of a concealed firearm, and in June 2021, he was arrested again when police officers conducted a traffic stop and noticed an Uzi in an open bag in Clark’s vehicle. Earlier this month, it was reported that Clark has resolved those charges.

Per the Associated Press, Clark pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor possession of an assault weapon, and he was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service. Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk writes that Clark will be due back in court on March 29, 2023 to prove that he has completed his sentence. Williams also notes that the judge required Clark to host four free youth football camps, which he has already done.

Now 29, Clark was rumored as a release candidate earlier this year given the hefty cap charges that he was due to carry over the 2022-23 seasons. Rather than release him, Kansas City ultimately decided to keep Clark in the fold via a new two-year deal worth $29MM (with incentives that could push that number to $36MM).

Over the first two games of the 2022 campaign, both Chiefs wins, Clark has appeared in 60% of the team’s defensive snaps. He has yet to record a sack and has posted three total tackles.

Under his present contract, Clark is due a $20.5MM base salary in 2023, and KC can release him to save $10MM against the cap while incurring a $9.075MM dead money charge. Given his declining sack totals over the past several years and his slow start to the current season, a release or another restructure presently looks like the most likely outcome next offseason.

As Williams observes, Clark could still face punishment under the league’s personal conduct policy for the gun charges.

Frank Clark Reworks Contract, Staying With Chiefs

Frank Clark will be sticking around Kansas City after all. The Chiefs have reworked the defensive end’s contract to keep him in Kansas City, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

Clark inked a new two-year pact worth $29MM with upside of $36MM. This will greatly reduce Clark’s cap numbers, which were set at $26MM in 2022 and $27MM in 2023.

Considering those pricey charges, Clark was mentioned as a cut candidate heading into the offseason. Cutting Clark before June 1st would have saved the Chiefs $12.7MM, and that number would have climbed to $19.5MM after that date. Instead, Clark was willing to take a significant pay cut to stick with the team.

Clark has earned three Pro Bowl nods during his three seasons in Kansas City, but his numbers have continued to decline. After totaling eight sacks during his first season with the Chiefs, he’s collected 10.5 sacks over his past two seasons (29 games).


Latest On Chiefs’ Frank Clark

There are likely to be a number of changes to the Chiefs’ defense this offseason. One of the biggest factors in their process of reshaping that unit is defensive end Frank Clark. With plenty of cap-related manoeuvring to do, ESPN’s Adam Teicher identifies Clark as a cut candidate. 

[Related: Chiefs Release LB Anthony Hitchens]

The process of shedding costs has already begun, with the team moving on from veteran linebacker Anthony HitchensClark could be next in line, Teicher notes, as the Chiefs “appear headed for a rebuild of their defensive line” not unlike the o-line overhaul of last year. The 28-year-old has another two years left on his contract, with cap hits of $26MM and $27MM upcoming.

Cutting Clark before June 1st would save the team $12.7MM, clearing a piece of the team’s third-highest cap charge off the books. If the team is able to wait until after that date, though, the savings would climb to $19.5MM. Kansas City could use the added flexibility to re-tool their defensive front, as fellow edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Alex Okaforalong with defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Jarran Reed are all pending free agents. There appears to be mutual interest for Ingram to remain, but several moves will likely be needed along the defensive front.

The other benefit to moving on from Clark is that it would free up cap space to try and retain at least one of the team’s top two free agents: left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and safety Tyrann MathieuWith the latter recently suggesting that he is headed elsewhere, priority could be placed on Brown, especially considering the draft capital invested in acquiring him from Baltimore last offseason.

Clark totalled eight sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception in 2019, his first year in Kansas City. Since then, though, he has combined to produce 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles; despite three straight Pro Bowl selections, then, the Chiefs could find his recent production insufficient to justify his large contract.

Chiefs OL Austin Blythe Underwent Hernia Surgery

Austin Blythe recently went under the knife, but the Chiefs center should be good to go for the start of the regular season. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the offensive lineman recently had hernia surgery. Blythe is expected to be sidelined for three weeks, which means he should be healthy for Week 1.

Considering the Chiefs invested a second-round pick in Creed Humphrey, Blythe’s injury all but guarantees that the rookie will be starting in Week 1. However, that doesn’t mean Blythe will see a reduced role in 2021. The 29-year-old started 47 games for the Rams over the past three years at both guard and center, so his versatility should find him a spot in the lineup (even if he’s temporarily a backup).

After grading as PFF’s ninth-ranked center last season, Blythe ended up joining the Chiefs on a one-year deal this offseason. After starting his career with the Colts, the veteran had spent each of the past four seasons in Los Angeles.

There’s some more promising injury news for the Chiefs. Despite aggravating his hamstring during practice earlier this week, defensive end Frank Clark is only expected to miss three weeks. Pelissero notes that there’s optimism that the veteran will be ready to play Week 1. Clark has had two productive seasons in Kansas City, collecting 14 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and 29 QB hits in 29 games (26 starts).

Chiefs DE Frank Clark Facing Felony Charge

5:16pm: Friday’s felony charge is actually in connection with Clark’s March arrest, not the Uzi incident in June, according to the Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope. With a subsequent charge potentially coming for the more publicized June arrest, the Pro Bowl defender’s off-field issues are piling up. He will be arraigned July 14. As for Clark’s second 2021 arrest, Teope notes authorities are still investigating that matter.

5:06pm: Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark is now facing a felony charge — possession of an assault weapon — in connection with his June 20 arrest, according to TMZ.

Police arrested Clark during a traffic stop in Los Angeles, when they found an Uzi in an open duffle bag in the vehicle. The 28-year-old pass rusher faces three years in prison and, on the much lighter end of the spectrum, a suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Clark is also a candidate for the Commissioner’s Exempt List (paid leave). The two-time Pro Bowler has claimed the gun did not belong to him but rather a member of his security team.

Clark, however, was also arrested on a gun charge — possession of a concealed firearm — March 13 in L.A. A traffic stop that night led to police finding two loaded firearms — a rifle and a handgun — in the vehicle. That case remains open, Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell reports.

At the least, Clark is facing the prospect of missing a sizable chunk of the 2021 season. The six-year veteran entered the NFL with a significant legal issue in his past. Misdemeanor domestic violence and assault charges led to Michigan dismissing him from the team in 2014. A plea deal led to those charges being reduced to persistent disorderly conduct, and because the incident occurred before Clark entered the NFL, he did not face a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.

The Chiefs, who acquired Clark from the Seahawks in April 2019, will certainly be lacking at the edge rusher spot if he is placed on paid leave and/or suspended. He is set to earn $18.5MM in base salary this season and is currently tied to a Chiefs-most $25.8MM cap hit.