How Much Is Kenny Clark Worth?

How much money should the Packers pay to retain the services of Kenny Clark?  General Manager Gutekunst has publicly said that the Packers want to reach an agreement with Clark on an extension prior to the start of the season.  So, how much is Kenny Clark worth?  As a separate question, how much is Clark worth to the Packers?

Grady Jarrett's signing for $17 million AAV instantly provoked comparisons to Clark.  I have been pushing back against that notion.  Ken Ingalls estimated $17.15 million over five years for a total of $85.75 million for Clark.  However, Clark is scheduled to earn $7.69 million in 2020, so even if Clark gets that number, it should be four years at $17.15 million ($68.6 million) plus the $7.69 million for his option year for a total of $76.29 million over the next five seasons.  That is $9.46 million ($1.89 million per year) less, a not insignificant difference.  

The Packers' cap space is directly affected by Clark's cap hit for 2020.  Will it exceed the $7.69 million that is currently scheduled or be about the same?  The other big issue is whether Gutekunst decides to re-sign Bryan Bulaga and how much his 2020 cap number will be.  Both of those issues are dependent to a significant degree on whether the new CBA passes or if the special rules for the 2020 season under the current CBA are in effect. 

It is hard to knock down the first year cap hit of a new deal under the current rules: note that Mason Crosby signed for $4.3 million but has a $4 million 2020 cap number.  Normally, Green Bay assigns a first year cap hit of 55% (when it is not less) to 70% of AAV, which would be $2.36 million to $3.01 million in Crosby's case.  Crosby's $4 million cap hit for 2020 was higher than I expected.  Russ Ball used a conventional structure to re-sign Crosby rather than pulling out the loopholes.

The difficulty in pushing the cap hit down the road is why the NFL owners imposed a deadline for acceptance when they proposed a new CBA.  It is also why the Union expressed no outrage over that deadline.  Each team has roughly 15 players who are UFAs and 5 to 7 who are RFAs or ERFAs.  The 450 to 480 or so UFAs know that some teams will be unable to bid for their services if those teams cannot manipulate the 2020 cap hit.  The second contract is the most important contract for these players, and if it is a third contract, it likely is the last chance for those players to cash in. 

ERFAs can be ERFAs for multiple years, and become RFAs.  The proposed CBA has some good provisions for the younger players (particularly marginal players who have shorter NFL careers), with sizable increases in minimum salaries and in benefits such as healthcare and minimum salaries, along with liberalizing pension provisions.  That is not to say that it is a good deal for the union, and I have already noted that I have no opinion simply because too few details have been released.  Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com has a nice article on the new proposal that you can read here.


Analyzing The Market for Kenny Clark:

Kenny Clark is a 3-4 DT.  I view him as a nose tackle.  The highest paid 3-4 DT is Eddie Goldman, whose contract is for $10.5 million AAV.  [The highest paid 3-4 DT was Damon "Snacks" Harrison at $11.25 million AAV, which was signed in 2019, but he was just released by Detroit.] It is a long way from $11.25 million to $17 million.  Perhaps Clark will argue that he is or can play 3-4 DE like Donald, Watt, Short or Casey, or that he can play 4-3 DT like Cox, Jarrett, or Geno Atkins.  Other than Donald, those players are in the $15 to $17 million dollar range.

There are two free agent 3-4 DTs who I view primarily as nose tackles: Javon Hargrave and D.J. Reader.  [I expect the Packers and Clark to wait to see what Hargrave gets in free agency before reaching an extension.]  Sportrac estimated Hargrave's value at $14.7 million, AAV and Reader's at $10.9 million.  However, Sportrac compared Hargrave to Fletcher Cox, Grady Jarrett, Sheldon Richardson and Jurell Casey, none of whom are 3-4 DTs.  Since I find Hargrave to be a good comparable, and plenty of readers have championed signing Hargrave, let's take a look at the numbers for Clark and Hargrave.  I will include the numbers for D.J. Reader and Damon Harrison.  Note that Sportrac compared Reader to Eddie Goldman ($10.5M AAV), Brandon Williams ($10.5M), Hicks ($12M) and Star Lotulelei ($10M).  It is almost as if deciding who the comparables are determines the result. *Harrison's statistics are for 2017 and 2018: I want to know what he did to earn the highest contract for a 3-4 DT.  He was not very good in 2019. 

Player

Name

QB Hits/

Game

TFL/

Game

Sack/

Gm

Tackle

Gm

Hur/

Gm

Stops/

Game

Stop

Rate

Missed

Tackle

PFF

Grade

Hargrave .438 .406 .328 2.09 .31 .875 74 7.7% 76/81/83
Clark .552 .586 .414 2.31 .52 1.34 83 11.4% 88/90/80
Reader .516 .355 .014 1.64 .19 .710 88 3.7% 79/75/87
Harrison* .333 .485 .152 3.12 .12 3.65 84 2.4% 91/92/63

QB hits, tackles for loss, sacks, solo tackles, hurries and missed tackles are per Pro Football Reference.  Stops per game and Stop Rate are from Football Outsiders and are just for 2018.  PFF grades are from Pro Football Focus. 

Clark's numbers look better than Hargrave's.  Note that Clark's 39 stops in 2018 came with Mike Daniels playing next to him for nine of Clark's thirteen games.  Martinez had a PFF grade of 74.4 in 2018 but it declined to 58.7 in 2019.  Lowry's grade similarly declined from 73.1 to 63.0.  Clark's run PFF run grade must have been much higher in 2018 since he had an overall grade of 90.  We know from Maggie Looney's article that Clark's run grade declined to 67.8 in 2019.  Hargrave had Tuitt (82/89.1 PFF grades) and Cameron Heyward (84.9/91.5) next to him in 2018 and 2019.  Noting each player's supporting cast injects some subjectivity but I feel it needs to be mentioned.  Who do you double if the choices are Tuitt, Hargrave and Heyward? 

However, perhaps due to the embarassment of riches Pittsburgh had, Hargrave only played 455 snaps in 2018 and 680 in 2019.  Clark played 720 (in 13 games) and 869 in 2019.  One can argue that Hargrave had fresh legs, but he also had less opportunity to rack up gross stats that translate well to a per game average.  The table below uses per snap instead of per game statistics.  The advantage Clark had largely disappears.

Player

Name

QB Hits/

Snap

TFL/

Snap

Sacks/

Game

Tackle/

Snap

Hur/

Snap

Stops/

Snap

Stop

Rate

Missed

Tackle

PFF

Grade

Hargrave .0123 .0114 .009 .059 .009 .062 74% 7.7% 76/81/83
Clark .0101 .0107 .007 .042 .009 .054 83% 11.4% 88/90/80
Reader .0127 .0087 .0036 .041 .005 .034 88% 3.7% 79/75/87
Harrison .0090 .0128 .004 .082 .003 .102 84% 2.4% 91/92/63

Harrison was a monster as a run defender.  In just 606 snaps, he had 62 run stops.  Reader had 22 in 638 snaps.  Hargrave had 28 in 455, and Clark had 39 in 720 snaps.  Reader and Harrison are big so their snaps have been limited: Reader averaged 630 snaps and Harrison 625 snaps per year.  Hargrave and Clark show a lot more pass rush ability, but note that Reader really came on in 2019 as a pass rusher with 13 QB hits.  Clark's career high is 9.  General Managers will have to decide whether Reader's pass rush improvement is a one year blip or something that can be expected in the future.

PFF gave Clark an 89.1 run defense grade in 2017 and a 67.8 in 2019.  His pass rush grades were 68.6, 88.8 and 87.  When I look at more conventional statistics such as QB hits, Clark (8.5 average/year) is not in the same category as Casey (15.5), Atkins (21), Cox (19), Short (17.5) or even Jarrett, who had 16 QB hits to earn his big contract.  Looking at PFF grades, Clark seems to be worth in the area of $16 million, which probably should be adjusted upwards for inflation and downwards for being an extension rather than a true free agency situation.  But the conventional statistics suggest something less than that to me.

Ken Ingalls worked out possible contract structures for Kenny Clark (which try to keep his 2020 cap number down) using $17.15M AAV under the current cap rules, seen here, and under the new CBA, which you can peruse here.  There is a big difference in potential salary cap hits for 2020.  $3 million matters, and it would be more if Russ Ball is unwilliing to use loopholes.  I want to mention that I follow Ken Ingalls on twitter.

At any rate, more information will be available after Hargrave and Reader sign in free agency.  I am more interested as in Reader as a potential Packer after researching this article.  I have looked at some of the other free agent defensive linemen and I plan to present information about several other possible free agent defensive linemen in the next few days.

 

 

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Comments (10)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 27, 2020 at 02:30 am

I looked for a photo that included both Clark and Daniels. I understood why GB cut Daniels and thought he would play well in 2019. Anyway, I don't know if Clark and Martinez regressed due to the absence of Daniels. I don't see why Lowry would decline since he didn't play more snaps with Daniels gone - he actually player fewer snaps in 2019 than in 2018. I've written that Clark is playing too many snaps, but 4-3 DTs often play 75% to 85% of possible snaps.

The players' representatives did vote 17 to 14 to recommend the newly proposed CBA with a couple of modifications. Now it will go to the entire union membership for a vote. AR is GB's player rep, and he was very opposed to it. Not terribly surprising.

Fun fact: Because Harrison was traded from the NYG, who hadn't gotten to their bye yet, to Detroit, which already had had their bye week, Harrison played in 17 regular season games in 2018. I don't think he got any extra pay though.

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Fredrik87's picture

February 27, 2020 at 10:25 am

Reader is the top guy on my free agent rankings for the packers.
I've gotten to watch a lot of the games he played in and he was always impressive.
Would love the packers to sign him.
Which brings me to a question of mine if we extend Clark at 16 million how much spendable cap space would be left after cutting Graham and Taylor?

Excellent article by the way.

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Turophile's picture

February 27, 2020 at 08:08 am

Good call on Reader Fredrik87, His combined numbers (vs run and pass) are not a mile away from Kenny's. He isn't the run stopper Harrison is, but he's a better penetrator (TGR's comparisons are telling on this)..

Something around $10-12m pa (see spotrac market value estimation) shouldn't be far out and though the Packers could only afford one guy of Reader's quality, he is just about within budget.

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stockholder's picture

February 27, 2020 at 07:42 am

I believe they deal with Clark, like Raji. Gute will bargain shop the DL. Somebody like a grave digger will work just fine.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

February 27, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Lets hope that is the last time we see Clark and raji in the same thought. Raji was a one year wonder and a bad NT who was forced to end to save his career and the reputation of the guy who wasted a top ten pick on him. His last years production was pathetic. His effort non existent.

Go back and watch Raji LAY DOWN on short yardage runs v the cowboys. He wasted his last 2 years and hurt development of real players with high effort like Mike Daniels

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 27, 2020 at 07:50 am

"The Packers' cap space is directly affected by Clark's cap hit for 2020."

Clark doesn't need a big cap hit in 2020 because he'll get his signing bonus upfront. Prorated signing bonuses are a cap tool but he gets the money right away.

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Packer_Fan's picture

February 27, 2020 at 09:14 am

Pay Clark the $16 - $17 mil.

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PatrickGB's picture

February 27, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Clark just needs a big fella next to him or rotating with him to improve his numbers and bolster his run defense. Perhaps one can be found cheap.

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Lare's picture

February 27, 2020 at 02:42 pm

I guess I have the same question with Clark as I had with Rodgers- why do they have to sign him to a new contract a year before his current contract expires? If they wait until next year wouldn't they have more money to sign complementary FAs this year?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 27, 2020 at 08:27 pm

Extensions sometimes are a little cheaper for the team and allow the cap hit to be leveled out over time a bit better. Think Bakh ($12M), Nelson and Adams ($14.5M) vs. Shields and Cobb.

That said, AR was getting older and GB had potential control for 4 years, so maybe until the end of his career. Clark is entering his prime. True, the franchise tag is $15.5M for 2020, which is equal to or less than what the Packers probably offer.

We don't know what the franchise rules will be under the new CBA. Making Clark play under his 5th yr option and a franchise means an unhappy player who would probably not re-sign in 2022.

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