The Denver Broncos tear down continues, as Denver released veteran pass-rusher Frank Clark Friday, in the aftermath of a Thursday night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Clark's release comes one week after the Broncos traded edge rusher Randy Gregory to the San Francisco 49ers, and amid speculation among league sources that wide receiver Jerry Jeudy could also be on the move.
Following Thursday night's loss, the Broncos drop to 1-5, firmly in the AFC West's basement, general manager George Paton appears to have at least one eye trained on the 2024 NFL Draft, clearing financial obligations, and preparing for a full-fledged rebuild despite middling quarterback play from veteran Russell Wilson.
The Broncos signed Clark, back in June, after the two-time Super Bowl champion spent the prior for seasons as a stalwart along the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive line. Clark produced just two total tackles in two games this season.
Some inside the league wonder just how strong a market Clark will be met with.
"Denver's defense is historically bad and he couldn't help them at all," an AFC South Scout told FanBuzz, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. "Part of me wonders if he's cooked?"
Prior to arriving in Denver, Clark produced 263 total tackles with 58.5 sacks through the first eight of his career, including a five-sack 2022 campaign and a Super Bowl victory with the Chiefs.
Now that Clark has been released, here's a look at the 30-year-old's best fits:
Kansas City Chiefs
A reunion with the Kansas City Chiefs might be what's best for both parties.
While the Chiefs' defense is playing some of its best football of the season, and completely smothered out Wilson and the Broncos' offense in prime time, scheme familiarity with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system could be a significant drawing card for the veteran pass-rusher.
Only the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens have produced more sacks than the Chiefs' 17 so far this season. However, pass rusher remains a premium position, and as the Chiefs continue to chase Super Bowl rings Clark's presence as a rusher and maybe more importantly as a respected veteran presence in that locker room could make him an intriguing option.
Las Vegas Raiders
Perhaps Clark's grand tour of the AFC West continues with a residency in Vegas?
The Raiders have reportedly been monitoring the trade market for pass-rush help, after moving on from Chandler Jones, and after toppling the Green Bay Packers on Monday night could believe that they are in the mix for an AFC Wild Card berth, or more, which would make adding a veteran rusher an attractive move.
Clark's familiarity with the Chiefs and Broncos could make him a top option. for Clark, the ability to vault to the top of the Raiders' depth chart and play starter caliber snaps, opposite All-Pro Maxx Crosby, immediately, could put Vegas on his radar.
The Bears' offense appears to be heating up in recent weeks, and bolstering the pass-rush could unlock Chicago's potential on defense.
Defensive end Demarcus Walker has just one sack, veteran Yannick Ngakoue has managed only a team-high two. Even if Clark is not the same dominant player that he once was with the Seahawks and Chiefs, he could become a valuable rotational piece in the Windy City.
Chicago might be a tough sell for Clark, if he views this free agency as a chance to chase a Super Bowl ring. But, the Bears do have $8.6 million in cap space this season and upwards of $111 million in spending flexibility in 2024, if they can convince Clark that he can be part of a rapid rebuild on a multi-year contract.
Baltimore enters Week 6 with the second-most sacks in the NFL, but with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations on an AFC side of the bracket that includes the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Josh Allen standing int he way of a berth on Super Sunday, adding a pass-rusher might wind up being a priority.
The Ravens signed Jadeveon Clowney over the summer, and acquired linebacker Roquan Smith last November, underscoring Baltimore's propensity for adding accomplished veterans along the front-seven. Clark, if he still has upside and the Ravens believe he can contribute, could be a valuable piece for a forthcoming postseason run.
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