Frank Clark's heel turn: former Kansas City Chief signs with Broncos

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

In a stunning turn of events on Thursday, news broke that former Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher Frank Clark would be signing a one-year contract worth up to $7.5 million with the rival Denver Broncos.

Many here in the Midwest say "If you don't like the weather, just wait a day" because of how fickle the meteorological patterns can be year 'round in America's Heartland. Much like the weather in Kansas City, the news about fan-favorite pass rushers can change drastically in just a day's time. Just yesterday, unfounded reports hit social media feeds saying that the Chiefs were "more and more likely" to bring back pass rusher Frank Clark on a team-friendly deal. We waited a day, and now the Denver Broncos appear to be pulling the rug on those reports.

Clark's deal with Denver is for one season and reportedly $5.5 million in guaranteed money with the ability for the former Chief to earn $7.5 million total if he reaches certain incentives. Those incentives have not been disclosed at this time.

all-timeClark joined the Chiefs in 2019 and had what most would consider an outstanding tenure with the team. In four seasons he played in 58 regular seasons games and amassed 23.5 sacks, but really found his groove in the playoffs as a member of two Super Bowl championship teams (Super Bowls LIV and LVII) and another Super Bowl participant (Super Bowl LV). In 12 games Clark had 10.5 sacks for KC in the postseason, and is third all time in league history with 13.5 career playoff sacks.

Clark will join a Denver defense that ranked near the top of the league in yards and points allowed in 2022 but was 24th in the NFL in sacks a season ago. If their plan is to bolster production with Clark, they may want to ensure they have a backup plan. Clark mustered just five sacks in 15 games with the Chiefs in 2022, and for the most part looked like he may have lost the edge that earned him a reputation as "The Shark" in previous seasons with the Chiefs. He missed two games in 2022 due to a suspension for a violation of the league's personal conduct policy stemming from an incident where he pleaded no contest after being pulled over with an illegal firearm in his vehicle.

The facts are the facts here, the Chiefs have restocked the pass rush cupboard with players like Charles Omenihu and Felix Anudike-Uzoma and are banking on the continued development of players like George Karlaftis, Malik Herring, and Mike Danna to bolster a defensive unit that was second in the NFL in sacks a season ago. Having an all-world cog in the middle like Chris Jones clearly helps those totals, but also helps the guys on the outside when Jones commands double and triple teams at times. Clark got a sweet deal from a desperate franchise that is also in the AFC West, a division that has been and will continue to be the property of the Kansas City Chiefs for at least a few more years.

How should we all feel about this? Frank Clark has been a guy that all of Chiefs Kingdom has latched on to since his arrival in 2019. He has been a fan favorite and without question a "glue guy" in the locker room during his tenure here. The departure surely has potential for negative implications - Chris Jones made it known earlier in the off-season that he was a proponent of Clark's return to the Chiefs roster in 2023. But with the pieces that Brett Veach and co. have out in place since the Super Bowl LVII victory, there appears to be no room left for The Shark.

Do we hate him? Do we turn on a guy who has given us so many great memories, like sacking Deshaun Watson to seal the deal on the greatest comeback in playoff history in the 2019 Divisional round? In short, no. You can't take away what he brought to the Chiefs in his time here. No different than Tyreek Hill or Tyrann Mathieu last season, you don't hate the player, but you can hate the team they play for now. And that will be something that is almost more natural than breathing for Chiefs fans with Clark's new club.

The best comparison I could come up with off the top of my head for this heel turn was when Hulk Hogan absolutely wrecked my childhood and put an atomic leg drop on Macho Man Randy Savage at Bash at the Beach in 1996, joining forces with Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and the nWo. Shameless, ruthless, and just downright wrong.

It's also a fitting comparison, especially with the news that dropped in the golf world this week, to put Clark in the same category as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and the other former PGA Tour pros who took the money and ran to the LIV Golf tour. Think about it -- Clark, a former major (Super Bowl) champion, joining forces for a higher salary than he's probably worth with a group that has limitless money (the Walton-Penner group) to play his sport on a less grandiose stage where he will get a fraction of the television ratings than he got at his previous employer. This plotline actually fits perfectly, now that I think about it. Comparing the CBS coverage of The Masters to the WB's coverage of whatever tournaments LIV Golf puts on would be right in line with comparing any Chiefs game's viewership to that of a Denver Broncos game. Unless, of course, they're playing the Chiefs.

Good for Frank Clark for getting the bag and continuing his playing career. The bottom line is he's about to be 30 and is almost certainly on the back end of his career. I'd consider the Chiefs and Clark winners in this -- KC got younger and better on the edge this off-season, and Clark continues playing for more money than the Chiefs were willing to give him. He'll get to continue his career, for at least one season, with a team that his former quarterback owns as well. Makes you wonder if Patrick Mahomes had anything to do with getting Clark a huge payday from Denver.