Green Bay Packers: A Contract Extension (Hopefully) on the Horizon

The Green Bay Packers just restructured Lane Taylor’s deal, so is an extension for Kenny Clark going to be the next domino to fall?

Before the 2020 offseason even began, GM Brian Gutekunst told us that is wasn’t going to be like the last one. With four big free agents signed in 2019 and with five major free agents of their own in 2021, the Green Bay Packers just didn’t have a ton of cap space to work with this offseason.

This meant the free-agent additions that they did make were more team-friendly deals for players in need of bounce-back seasons. But even with the conscious spending this spring, Green Bay still finds themselves tight up against the salary cap.

And that doesn’t even take into account signing the rest of their rookie class, putting together a practice squad, or the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster. Not to mention leaving some money available for in-season spending.

However, just this past weekend the Packers and Lane Taylor would agree to a restructure the final year of his contract which freed up roughly $3 million in available cap space. Which according to Spotrac leaves Green Bay with $12,868,482 to work with in 2020. Still not a ton, but more room nonetheless.

So while I’m sure there are free agents out there that fans would love to see the Green Bay Packers bring in, we have to wonder if the next domino to fall this offseason – along with the signing of the 2020 draft class – is an extension for Kenny Clark.

During his season-ending press conference, Gutey was asked about an extension for Clark and had this to say:

“Kenny’s a big part of what we do, very important to our defense,” Gutekunst told reporters. “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to come to some agreement at some point.”

Gutekunst would then add that despite Green Bay wanting to bring Clark back on a new deal, coming to an agreement still isn’t easy:

“These things don’t happen quickly usually, but the idea was always sometime this offseason we would start to approach that, and we will.”

Over his first four NFL seasons, Clark has emerged as one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Whether it’s against the run or against the pass, Clark has performed at an elite level.

According to Pro Football Focus, in 2019 Clark was second in run-stops among all interior defensive linemen who played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps and sixth in pass-rush productivity. On top of that, he would add six sacks, 69 total pressures, and nine tackles for loss.

Clark has performed and produced like a top defensive tackle and he’s going to be compensated like one. To get an idea of what Clark’s deal could look like, after trading for DeForest Buckner, the Indianapolis Colts signed him to a contract extension worth $21 million per year. I imagine that Clark is going to be in that ballpark.

So of course when dealing with that kind of money on a per-year basis, the Packers need to take their time with this and make sure a new contract for Clark doesn’t set them back financially for the long-term. Especially with players like Aaron Rodgers, Za’Darius Smith, and Preston Smith on the books, along with future free agents David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones in 2021 and Davante Adams in 2022.

Now having said all of that, while the Green Bay Packers don’t have a ton of spendable cap space at the moment, despite what Clark will cost, an extension could actually lower his cap hit this season. Given how Russ Ball and the Packers usually structure their contracts by backloading them, Clark’s $7.69 million cap hit in 2020 could very well drop. Potentially giving Green Bay more room to add another veteran like Tramon Williams or Jared Veldheer.

A few other extension candidates that the Packers have are the aforementioned Bakhtiari who is an upcoming free agent and should be a high priority as well. Along with Jones whose representatives have been in talks with Green Bay this offseason.

However, as much as I think and hope Bakhtiari is back, Clark is priority No. 1 at the moment. At only 24-years-old he has established himself as a force inside and in all likelihood his best years are still in front of him.

Also, I don’t even want to imagine what the Packers’ interior defensive line and run defense would look like without Clark.

In a perfect world, this deal gets done prior to training camp beginning in July so it’s one less question that needs to be answered. And with the restructuring of Taylor’s contract out of the way, perhaps this is the next domino to fall.