Frank Clark dominated.
Another sack, his 15th in 17 games to extend his career high for a season. Three hits on Dallas’ otherwise elusive quarterback Dak Prescott, who killed just about every other Seahawks defender in the NFC wild-card playoff game with runs and plays. Clark has another tackle for loss, besides the sack.
In other words: Clark is about to get paid. Even more.
His rookie contract paying him $943,941 this season ended with Seattle’s 24-22 loss to the Cowboys Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. He stands to make perhaps $18 million or more per year in his next deal.
Will it come from the Seahawks, for 2019 and beyond?
Does Clark think the team that took the chance on him by making him its top draft choice in 2015 months after he got kicked out of the University of Michigan’s program will re-sign him, to keep him from free agency in March?
Does Clark he’s going to be with Seattle when minicamps begin in May?
“I think I am,” he told The News Tribune late Saturday, a white towel draped over his head and another around his waist at his locker in a quiet Seahawks’ locker room in Texas. “At the end of the day, I just feel like whatever’s in my coach’s plans, whatever’s in our guys’ plans, I think they are going to take care of it.”
Taking care of it is the first priority for the Seahawks now that their rebound season has ended.
He has 34 sacks in his last 48 games. Those are numbers that will get him paid, handsomely, in this passer-and-sack-the-passer league. Plus, he’s still only 25 years old. He may not even be in his physical prime yet, especially not after bulling through wrist and other injuries the past two seasons to pick up a Seattle defense that seemed without a pass rush after Pro Bowl ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril retired following the 2017 season.
The Seahawks have a $30-million-per-year or more deal on the horizon to pay for quarterback Russell Wilson, whose deal ends after 2019. The fact the team hasn’t already reached an agreement for Clark shows how his cost has skyrocketed, and the deal has perhaps become a little more complicated to do.
Coach Pete Carroll has said that Clark is a Seahawk, and that he isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re working on it,” Carroll said during a Christmas Eve press conference the morning after Seattle clinched its sixth playoff appearance in seven years with a 38-31 home win over Kansas City.
“I mean, Frank, he’s a Seahawk. You guys know. We’ll figure it out somehow, and work at it. It’s a big issue.”
“It’s been marvelous to watch him grow. ...Fourth year, so it’s like he’s a senior now,” the former USC coach said. “He’s acting like it. He’s embraced the opportunity and the role. He’s grown to it. There’s that freshman year, than the sophomore year... he’s just grown right before our eyes...
“It’s just marvelous to see.”
Clark knows he’s going to get paid. Either by a Seahawks franchise tag that may cost $18 million for 2019, based on the projected corresponding increase in the NFL’s salary cap per team next year. Or in a multi-year deal that will give him an upfront bonus beyond the dreams of a former kid that used to look for places to eat and sleep.
Clark grew up in one of the notoriously tough areas of Los Angeles, Baldwin Village. Actor Denzel Washington depicted the neighborhood as a crooked cop immersed in its street drug trade in the movie “Training Day.”
“They call it ‘The Jungle,’ ” Clark told The News Tribune in 2016 of his native area bordering the Crenshaw district, southwest of downtown Los Angeles. “Basically, I mean, there aren’t too much I want to talk about, you know what I mean, about that. It’s a rough area.
“It’s hard making it out of that city. It’s a city within the city of Los Angeles. Anybody who knows LA knows that’s one of the roughest parts of the city.”
So, no, his future wasn’t a concern late Saturday night.
He knows somebody is going to take care of him, his toddler daughter, his girlfriend with whom he reconciled after the domestic-violence arrest and jailing in the fall of 2014 that got him kicked out of Michigan. In a few months, he’ll be set. For life.
“I don’t really think about it,” he said of his contract. “I haven’t really thought about it all season, to be honest with you. Of course it’s on the table. At the end of the day, I dedicated myself and I dedicated this season—through injuries, through everything I went through—to my teammates, to my defensive line.
“I knew what I had to sacrifice. I knew what type of year this is going to be. I felt like I pushed myself to the limit, for my team and for my defensive line.
“I feel like that is all you can ask for out of a player.”