Among the junk heap that is the Chiefs defense, one player stands out more than anyone else; Frank Clark. Clark has been beyond bad with a huge price tag.
Frank Clark was a major part of the defensive “culture shift” that took place in 2019 when the K.C. Chiefs moved on from Eric Berry, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford. The Chiefs made a huge trade that sent a first-round pick, a second-round pick, and a swap of third-round picks to the Seahawks in exchange for Clark.
Brett Veach said in a statement at the time: “We believe Frank is a premier player in this league and an elite pass rusher. In his four seasons in Seattle, he established himself as a leader in the locker room, and we’re looking forward to bringing him here to help our defense.”
This assessment, to the dismay of Chiefs fans, has been wrong. While many are quick to defend Frank Clark due to his heroic play in the Super Bowl against the San Fransisco 49ers, Clark has been neither dominant nor a leader during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Frank Clark is falling short of all expectations for the Chiefs.
This year is worse than ever.
Right Now, Frank Clark is tied with Marcus Kemp, who is a wide receiver, in tackles. That astonishing number of tackles is at six. Six tackles. Calculating that statistic to his current cap hit, Clark is making about $3,083,333 a tackle. Let’s just focus on this year though, right? It has been a difficult season for everyone, after all.
- 2018 (Seattle): 16 starts, 33 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks
- 2019: 11 starts, 27 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks
- 2020: 15 starts, 21 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks
While you will immediately notice the decline in production after coming over from Seattle, one would consider 2019 to be a pretty good season. In 14 games and 11 starts, Clark finished with eight sacks and a career-best 12 tackles for a loss. This has been the outlier for the Chiefs, but we will use it in comparison with other defensive ends around his pay grade.
According to Spotrac, Clark is currently the 5th highest-paid defensive end in football behind Joey Bosa, Myles Garrett, Leonard Williams, and Demarcus Lawrence. Let’s take a look at some players that are making less than Frank Clark this season.
Cameron Jordan‘s last two seasons:
- 2019: 16 starts, 37 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks
- 2020: 16 starts, 34 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks
Arik Armstead‘s last two seasons:
- 2019: 16 starts, 32 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks
- 2020: 16 starts, 29 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks
Trey Hendrickson‘s last two seasons:
- 2019: 3 starts, 11 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks
- 2020: 15 starts, 22 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks
You will notice that in comparison to Clark’s numbers, these three players, who are in the top ten in terms of money paid to defensive ends, have had up and down years. Cam Jordan’s 2020 season only produced 7.5 sacks which was a half sack less than Clark’s best season. In addition to this, there are a couple of years in which a couple of these players had under five sacks. While Arik Armstead and the 49ers had a tough 2020 campaign, Hendrickson only started three games and finished with 4.5 sacks in 2019.
The box score does not tell the entire story, and one can gather a lot of information from the eye test. Ever since Clark arrived in Kansas City, fans have wondered why he has been less dominant than he was in Seattle. In addition to this, there has been only one truly dominant regular season game played by Clark in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform. In Week 9 against the Chargers in 2019, when the Chiefs won 24-17. In that game, Clark finished with 4 quarterback pressures, 2 quarterback knockdowns, and a sack.
With all of that in mind, would you really take Frank Clark’s best year with the Chiefs over anyone’s year on this list with the exception of Armstead’s 2020 campaign? Bear in mind, I did not go through the list and pick the best players at the position that are underpaid, I simply went through the top ten and picked players who were relatively healthy over the last two seasons and compared them to Clark.
Other than that performance and the opener in 2020 against the Houston Texans in which he had three, Clark has never had more than two pressures in a game with the Chiefs. More damning, Clark has one game with more than one sack with the Chiefs. Clark, in other words, is getting paid top five money, to be a role player who makes a few plays here and there.
Fast-forward to today. Clark is anchoring a defense that has been at the bottom of the barrel, having started only four games this season. So far, he has not recorded a sack. He has one tackle for a loss and six total tackles to his credit
Well, play isn’t everything, right? Sometimes it’s the leadership aspect and attitude that players bring to a defense that set them apart. So, what about Clark’s leadership that Brett Veach talked about in his opening press conference?
Without going into depth into his ongoing legal issues, Clark has certainly not stayed out of trouble off the field. Without mentioning his past struggles in Seattle off the field, seeing his play on the field and his reaction to struggle tells you everything you need to know about his leadership. In the waning moments of the loss to the Titans, CBS cameras picked up Clark having a fun time, laughing with his teammates on the sideline.
I am not saying that he needed to be “doom and gloom.” I am simply wondering what was so funny after losing the fourth game out of seven to start the season. I can’t blame him though. Clark is getting away with robbery and no one can stop him.