With Frank Clark’s pending off the field issues, we examine the “on the field” impact this could have for the Chiefs.
A year ago, it would have been borderline insane to ridicule the Frank Clark deal and contract. He had just come off a dynamic performance in the playoffs and helped bring the Lombardi trophy back to Kansas City. Fast forward a few months and an Uzi later, and the Clark contract is looking like a real problem for the Chiefs.
There is still a lot to play out on the legal and the league’s side as well for Clark. It’s possible Clark’s fate may not be decided during the 2021 season at all given how backed up the justice system is from the pandemic. It’s also possible Clark could be looking at a lengthy suspension for two offenses leaving the Chiefs no choice but to cut him.
So what happens if the Chiefs have to cut Frank Clark?
Finically, cutting Clark would do nothing for the Chiefs cap-wise 2021. It would save them money in the following seasons, but most speculate that Clark could be cut after 2021 for those cap savings anyways. There has been some thought that perhaps his contract could be voided due to his legal issues. This is possible but not a guarantee given that he could be suspended for some games and still fulfill his contract for the Chiefs.
On the Field
Frank Clark is the Chiefs’ best edge rusher by a wide margin. Unfortunately, that statement is more of an indictment on the Chiefs’ depth at edge than a compliment for Clark. Losing Clark takes the Chiefs pass rush from Good to below average. It’s scary to think about where the Chiefs might have been without signing Jarren Reid. Without Clark, I’d expect the Chiefs to be in on some familiar names in free agency… Melvin Ingram, Oliver Vernon, and yes, maybe Justin Houston. Though Melvin Ingram seems the most likely at this point.
One of the few ways the Chiefs defense looked to improve from 2020 was the added pass rush of Jarren Reid paired with Chris Jones kicking out to defensive end at times. The goal was for the pass rush to get pressure with four regularly so defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wouldn’t have to manufacture pressure via the blitz. In 2020 the Chiefs were the 9th heaviest blitzing defense in the league, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit what a defense can do with coverage, especially if you are sending an extra rusher frequently.
Without Frank Clark, Chris Jones playing defensive end becomes more of a necessity and less of an experiment. It would also force the Chiefs to rely heavily on younger players such as Mike Dana and rookie Joshua Kaindoh, which could be an added benefit if they step up or it could expose some flaws in their development. Though, Clark has underachieved in the last calendar year he is still a much better player compared to Danna, Kaindoh, and Charlton.
More than anything, losing Clark would mean the defense is entirely relying on improvement from Nick Bolton and Jarren Reid to lift it past where it was in 2020. Most people look at the Super Bowl in Tampa and see the fact that the offense scored nine points as the problem (which it is). But the other part of the problem is the defense giving up 31 points.
The Chiefs defense took a step back in 2020 and they need to improve in 2021 in order to take some pressure off of the offense. We saw one of the greatest offenses of all time in 2018 from the Chiefs and even they could not overcome the 31st overall defense in the league. Mahomes and company are elite, but they cannot win every single game 41-38.
Off the Field
Unfortunately, Frank Clark is another chapter in a long story of the Chiefs continuing to struggle off the field. Yes, it’s the NFL where seemingly every team has players who face legal or league repercussions for their behavior. But, Frank Clark came to the Chiefs with a “rap sheet” – both literal and figurative. Despite a history of domestic violence and theft, the Chiefs rewarded Clark with a massive deal and also gave up a 1st and 2nd round pick to do so. If Clark can’t get on the field due to legal issues in 2021 this deal will be a disaster no matter what happened in 2019.
The Chiefs organization has been rewarded and hurt by standing by players who have off the field questions. They stood by Tyreek Hill when it seemed nobody else would; which has turned out to be a smart decision for them. However, they also stood beside Kareem Hunt as more and more red flags popped up with his drinking and aggression issues. Only then cutting him because he lied, not because he kicked a woman. The Chiefs have to stop being the team that is always adding question marks off the field. Including their coaching staff as well…
Not only is it tiring as a fan, spending every summer reading tweets from lawyers explaining how a player makes bond. It is also poor team building and hurts the roster as a whole. Players missing games and training camp and having to face difficult questions from the media is a distraction. Yes, I know the Chiefs have been dominant for the last 3 years but that doesn’t mean they can’t be better or have one too many distractions. I still wonder if the Britt Reid situation might have cost the Chiefs back-to-back championships more than Andrew Wylie at tackle ever did.