Green Bay Packers

Should the Packers Give Kenny Clark Top-5 Defensive Tackle Money?

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Clark is entering the final year of his second contract. Regarded as one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL, Clark is coming off a career-best season with 7.5 sacks.

Clark is due $17 million in cash in 2024, seventh among his position group. However, that’s all the Packers owe him, and it ranks 25th among all defensive tackles.

Securing a third contract in the NFL is a rare feat, typically reserved for franchise quarterbacks. Even top-tier players at other positions often find it challenging. For instance, Aaron Jones, one of the best running backs in Green Bay Packers history, did not receive a third contract from the team. Despite delivering high-level performances at 29, running backs tend to exit their prime around age 30, and the Packers opted not to extend him.

At 28 years old, Clark is still in his prime and should maintain a high level of play for at least two or three more years. Given his consistent performance, Clark is likely to demand a substantial contract, and justifiably so. His average Pro Football Focus defensive grade and pass-rush grade stand at 76, which is above average.

Twelve interior defensive linemen in the NFL earn an average of over $20 million per year. Among them, only Chris Jones, Justin Madubuike, and Christian Wilkins recorded more sacks than Clark in 2023. Additionally, only Quinnen Williams, Madubuike, and Jones registered more pressures, and Williams and Dexter Lawrence had more hurries.

Clark should probably ask for top-five defensive tackle money. However, I’m not sure Green Bay will want to give a large extension to a player nearing his 30s, even though Clark’s production justifies it. The Packers may want to consider extending Clark as soon as possible. They would retain an important part of their front seven and free up $12 million in cap space, giving them more flexibility to finalize Jordan Love‘s contract extension.

If Green Bay opts to give Kenny Clark a three-year deal, I could see him re-signing for $70.5 million, with $27.5 million fully guaranteed. This contract would place Clark among the top-10 defensive tackles in average salary.

There’s no doubt that Clark deserves the money, but Green Bay’s priority is to extend Jordan Love. Additionally, they’ll be looking to re-sign most of their 2022 and 2023 draft classes. Zach Tom is one of the best tackles in the league and is working toward a huge payday. However, Green Bay may be unable to afford extensions for Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks, and Jayden Reed. Despite this, I believe at least two will secure a second contract with the team.

Green Bay has a track record of moving on from veterans to prioritize a younger squad, focusing on the team’s long-term development. It wouldn’t be surprising — or ideal — if 2024 is Clark’s final year in green and gold. However, the Packers are now expected to compete for a championship, and having a high-quality player like Clark in the trenches enhances their chances of long-term success this season.

The Packers have a strong defensive line group. Devonte Wyatt is expected to make a leap in production under Jeff Hafley’s guidance, while Karl Brooks emerged as Green Bay’s best defensive rookie in 2023. Even Lukas Van Ness can line up inside when needed. Looking at recent Super Bowl representatives like the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, both teams showcased a solid rotation on the defensive line. Kenny Clark is the guy to lead that unit, and the Packers should be more inclined to bring him back than to trade or release him.

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