KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs general manager Brett Veach says that all of the club's offseason moves stemming back to to beginning of free agency hinged on one plan – finding a way to pry defensive end Frank Clark away from the Seattle Seahawks.
“When this process started, and we made the moves we did, and moved on from obviously Justin (Houston) and Dee (Ford), this was the plan,” Veach said. “Our plan was to try to get Frank Clark.”
The Chiefs invested an enormous amount of resources into landing Clark. They dealt a first-round draft choice this year and a second-round selection next season just for the chance to sign Clark to a new five-year, $105.5 million contract.
Veach was willing to make that investment because he sees Clark as one of the league's elite defensive players.
“Trades in the NFL happen all the time, but a trade of this magnitude is not done unless it's for an elite player, and certainly Frank is an elite player,” Veach said. “Over the last four years he's proven to be one of the very best pass rushers in the NFL, great run defender and overall just a disruptive player.”
Head coach Andy Reid sees the same qualities in Clark. He sees a player who practices hard, plays hard and loves the game.
“Every down is an honest down,” Reid said. “There's no time off where he is cruising at all.”
Just as the Chiefs view Clark as the perfect fit for what they want to do defensively, Clark sees the revamped defense under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as an ideal system for his skills.
“For a guy like myself, to have a guy like coach Spags around, it's just knowledge I'm going to be able to gain,” Clark said. “More knowledge, more gain.”
Another attractive lure for Clark in Kansas City is defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who spent the past five seasons as a defensive assistant and line coach for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Daly coached in four Super Bowls in five seasons while winning three rings. Just as importantly, he helped develop young edge players Chandler Jones, Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise into effective defensive pieces for championship teams.
Daly also served as defensive line coach for Spagnuolo during his tenure as head coach of the St. Louis Rams. That's where Daly worked with edge Chris Long, who collected just four sacks as a rookie before Daly arrived. His production increased steadily, peaking with 13 sacks during Daly's final season with the Rams. Long later played for Daly again in 2016 with the Patriots.
That track record speaks volumes to Clark.
“It's obvious his system works, the things he does,” Clark says. “I'm just looking forward to being with coach and helping him out and taking a little bit of load off of him.”
Clark says doesn't know specifically what role he will plays in this defense, but Long, Jones and Flowers provide likely templates. But Veach sees a higher ceiling in Clark.
“He can win with speed, he can win with power, he can win inside as a rusher, he can win outside as a rusher, he's dominant against the run,” Veach said. “Again, he has almost no weaknesses to his game.”
Clark certainly plays with attitude and swagger, and it's a trait he takes pride in. Veach has said for the past year he wants to instill more aggression in the team's defense. Clark loves to hear that.
“I feel like that's when you become a great player,” he said. “Not just about your individual stat but when you can contribute in a whole other matter which helps out other players on your team, that's when I feel like you're doing the job.”
Yet he also understands the pressures that come with joining a defense that ranked 31st in total yards allowed last season. He knows there will be questions, including about a temper that has gotten him in trouble in the past.
“The only thing I can do is let me play do the talking and my actions off the field,” Clark said. “If I can control that and do everything on that, I know everything else is going to handle itself especially inside our defensive locker room.”