Kansas City Chiefs Options Without Frank Clark

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Kansas City Chiefs edge defender Frank Clark is in some serious legal trouble. The former second-round pick is currently staring down felony charges for possession of an assault weapon and, if convicted, could face up to three years in prison. While the legal process still needs time to play itself out, the Chiefs need to start preparing for life without Clark. Even if he doesn’t serve any jail time, commissioner Roger Goodell has the right to impose suspensions as he feels necessary.

 What the Kansas City Chiefs Can Do Without Frank Clark

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Frank Clark will not be available in 2021. He will probably be put on the Commissioner’s Exempt list any day now, and it’s hard to see him coming off of that list before this situation plays itself out.

Cases like these are obviously complex, and there is a chance that the Chiefs try to part ways with the troubled pass-rusher. Clark currently carries a $25.8 million cap hit, but Kansas City could try to void the deal. Clark’s base salary is currently guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap, and Kansas City could argue that this arrest does not fall under one of these three categories, thus rending the deal null and void.

Kansas City currently has $7.9 million in available cap space, per Over the Cap, but that number could theoretically jump up to $33.7 million if the Chiefs successfully void Clark’s deal. Given that they’re right in the middle of a win-now window, it’s safe to assume that the Chiefs will use as much money as possible to shore up their defensive line.

Examining the Options

If the Kansas City Chiefs have money to spend, then their best option is going after Melvin Ingram. Ingram is coming off a relatively disappointing season, recording just 10 tackles, five quarterback hits, one interception, no tackles-for-loss, and no sacks in seven games. However, despite the poor production, the edge defender still finished as the 27th-best player at his position, per Pro Football Focus. While the eye test doesn’t quite back this up, it is safe to say he was better than the raw numbers suggest.

Sacks are a volatile stat and aren’t always an accurate reflection of talent. While Ingram is on the older side, he should have another season or two of high-level play. If Clark is gone, the Chiefs should definitely look into adding the veteran on a short-term deal.

Even if the Chiefs don’t free up Clark’s money, they still might be able to afford Ingram. Thanks to his relatively low performance, Kansas City could structure an incentive-laden deal that won’t affect their 2020 cap situation. For example, the Chiefs could tie a $2 million incentive to getting a single sack. Because Ingram didn’t reach this mark last year, this incentive would be considered “Not Likely to Be Earned” (NLTBE) and have no bearing on the 2020 cap.

Alternatively, the Chiefs could bring back old friend Justin Houston. One could make the case that the 32-year old would actually be an upgrade on Clark, as he’s played some fantastic football over the past two years. During his time with Indianapolis, the edge defender has played in all 32 games while recording 19 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, and 21 tackles-for-loss. Head coach Andy Reid obviously knows how to play to his strengths, and he could slide right back in his old role in the defense.

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