RENTON, Wash. (AP) — As Frank Clark continued to impress in the final season of his rookie contract, the Seattle Seahawks kept saying he would be part of their long-term plans.
The Seahawks stayed true to that, but for now it's just for the 2019 season. Seattle used the franchise tag Monday on Clark, keeping the former second-round pick and top pass rusher from hitting the free-agent market.
Clark will be due $17,128,000 this season if the sides do not come to an agreement on a long-term deal by July 15 and he plays under the franchise tag. Both sides have indicated a desire to keep Clark in Seattle for more than just one more season.
"Frank and I, we have a great relationship. The communication has been great. There's a strong level of trust between the two of us," general manager John Schneider said at the NFL combine last week.
Clark proved his worth as an elite pass rusher with a career-high 13 sacks in 2018, the first season he didn't have veterans Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril helping him get to the quarterback. They were the most sacks by any Seattle player since 2007 and put Clark in line for a massive payday should he hit the open market.
But Seattle decided not to let that happen, using its franchise tag for the first time since 2010, when it was used on kicker Olindo Mare. Seattle used the non-exclusive franchise designation on Clark, meaning he could sign with another team but Seattle would get two first-round picks from his new team.
The pressure on Clark last season was significant as the one proven pass rusher the Seahawks had coming off the edge. Clark had 19 sacks in the previous two seasons, but that was playing in a rotation with Bennett and Avril, with all three often rushing together in passing situations.
Last year was the chance for Clark to prove he could handle being the focus. His performance made him a ton of money in 2019 and likely beyond. Clark and Jarran Reed made up one of three teammate duos to finish with double-digit sacks in 2018, joining the Kansas City combo of Chris Jones and Dee Ford, and Denver's Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
"It's been marvelous to watch him grow. He's grown within the program," coach Pete Carroll said of Clark late last season. "How many years has he been here? Four? Yeah, so it's like he's a senior now and he's acting like it. He's embraced the opportunity and the role."
Clark was selected with the 63rd overall pick of the 2015 draft. He entered the NFL with a checkered past off the field during college at Michigan, but has so far not gotten into trouble as a professional. He's played in 62 of 64 regular-season games in his four seasons.
"He's just grown up right before our eyes and he speaks so clearly about how it all works together," Carroll said.
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