Green Bay Packers

Pump the Brakes On the Kenny Clark Trade Rumors

Photo Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Gutekunst is no stranger to executing big trades, having completed deals that sent Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Rasul Douglas out of town in the past two seasons. But there’s no reason to believe that a trade is coming for Kenny Clark. Despite various rumors that he could be shipped out, trading Clark would be a mistake for the Green Bay Packers, given they will need everything that Clark brings to the table.

He traded Rodgers and Adams out of town for various reasons that built up throughout a few seasons, but those trades also had plenty to do with off-the-field reasoning. Clark is in the final year of a four-year, $70 million contract extension he signed in 2020. He has played up to, if not exceeded, his contractual value. It’s not all that common for the Packers to sign players to third contracts, as partly evidenced by the record-setting youth of Green Bay’s roster last season. But there are a couple of reasons why a short-term extension makes sense — and why a trade in the days leading up to the draft doesn’t.

First and foremost, Clark is still balling out. He might be playing the best football entering his ninth year in the league and is coming off a season where he established career highs in sacks (7.5) and quarterback hits (16) to go with nine tackles for loss and two forced fumbles while absorbing double teams almost 60% of the time. With new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley entering the fold, Clark will assuredly see fewer double teams in a 4-3 scheme and disrupt at the line of scrimmage even more. He will be able to stay fresh by sharing reps with Devonte Wyatt, Karl Brooks, and T.J. Slaton, all of whom are continuing to improve throughout the early stages of their careers.

While Green Bay has been rightfully hesitant to give big money to veteran players in years past, the contracts they’ve doled out recently have been youth-focused. Xavier McKinney and Josh Jacobs are younger than the players they’re replacing on the Green Bay depth chart, and if there was any Packers player who would warrant a third contract because of his age, it’s Clark. He famously became a starter in his freshman year at UCLA when he was 17 years old. Green Bay drafted him at age 20 in 2016, and he hasn’t missed a game since 2018. Clark, 28, figures to still have several quality seasons left in the tank.

As young as the Packers were last year, they still had enough veteran leadership to help right the ship after the midseason skid where they fell to 3-6 in mid-November. Perhaps the two most outspoken leaders on the roster, Aaron Jones and Douglas are no longer there, leaving a void on both sides of the ball. Someone must step up. While Jordan Love will most assuredly be that voice on the offensive side of the ball, Clark can become that all-important person for a Green Bay defense that will enter the season with reinvigorated expectations.

“Kenny Clark is one of our leaders,” said Matt LaFleur following the season. “No question about it. Another guy that continues to battle. He certainly leads that defensive line room. He’s a big leader not only on the defense but for this football team. Not always the most outspoken, but he certainly does it with his play and his actions and how he prepares on a weekly basis. We are fortunate to have a guy like that in our locker room.”

On a still-young Packers tewithhas lofty expectations this season, there will need to be some veteran presence throughout to help Green Bay evolve and succeed. Trading Kenny Clark for draft considerations may sound good on paper. But he’s far too valuable, even if it’s just for one more season or a shorter extension. When you consider that Clark is still playing at a Pro Bowl level — and that, with Aaron Donald retiring, he could be an All-Pro — it’s hard to imagine a return that would have more of an impact than what Clark brings to Green Bay.

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Photo Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

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