Frank Clark Might Be a Free Agent Fit for the Bears On the Field, But…

Frank Clark Broncos
Frank Clark Broncos

Whenever I’m watching (non-Bears) NFL games, I’m reminded that there’s not just one way to win a game. And for me, that lesson tends to leak over into the offseason (i.e. there is no one way to build a team).

With that in mind, I found Cynthia Frelund’s free-agent fits (based on win-share projections) as useful alternatives to creating better-fitting player-team pairings.

In this exercise, Frelund sees former Chiefs edge defender Frank Clark as a fit for the Chicago Bears. And from an analytical standpoint, I get it. Check out Frelund’s explanation:

Coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, Clark posted a sack rate of just 1.2 percent in 2022, his lowest since 2016, along with a 9.2 percent pressure rate, per Next Gen Stats (ranking 17th among edge defenders with at least 400 pass-rush snaps). But we need to consider the context around those numbers. Both Clark and Kansas City teammate Chris Jones commanded a lot of attention from opposing offenses in the form of double-teams and play-calling that mitigated the impact of their rushing abilities. Forcing opponents to change their schemes and calls is also extremely valuable. The Bears ranked dead last in sacks last season with 20, so there is definitely a significant need for a high-end rusher to help change their output.

Clark, 29, checks some Bears boxes. And for what it’s worth, Clark also makes Alex Shapiro’s list (NBC Sports Chicago) of five free agents the Bears should target now that we know who is (and isn’t) getting the franchise tag.

Clark has Pro Bowl credentials, earning all-star status in 2019, 2020, and 2021. However, his sack numbers aren’t what they were earlier in his career. But his PFF grade had him as the site’s 69th-best edge defender last season. It’s a nice grade that puts him in the middle of the pack, which isn’t much. However, it would represent an upgrade from what the Bears currently have. Additionally, Clark has connections to Chicago’s new front office from his time in Kansas City. It always helps to know somebody when you’re looking for a new gig. Also, signing Clark after his cut means it wouldn’t count against the compensatory draft pick formula. All of this suggests Clark and the Bears could be a fit. Filling the need for a veteran edge defender could be helpful. Yes, even if all he does is bridge the gap to a better long-term option.

But Clark has some off-the-field red flags I can’t look past. For instance, Clark was critical of a reporter in 2017 who brought up his domestic violence arrest. And while the domestic violence charge was reduced to disorderly conduct, it still represents a notable blemish on his record. But that isn’t the only incident. There were felony home invasion charges (2012) and arrests on gun charges in March and June 2021. I’m all for second chances and personal rehabilitation. People can move on from their past and be better people moving forward. Growth can happen. I truly believe that. But this doesn’t feel like the right player for the Bears to take on in that regard right now.

Good thing there are a litany of options who could be fits in free agency and the draft. Javon Hargrave (Eagles), Dalvin Tomlinson (Vikings), Dre’Mont Jones (Broncos), and Zach Allen (Cardinals) are among the top defensive tackle options. Meanwhile, Marcus Davenport (Saints), Jadeveon Clowney (Browns), and Arden Key (Jaguars) are sensible fits for edge defenders. Meanwhile, the NFL Draft has a bunch of prospects worthy of going in the top 15. In other words, the Bears have options. Good ones. Plenty of them. So they don’t have to take on risking negative PR on signing a player whose past has off-the-field issues.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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