During the NFL free agency period, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell has been grading its significant moves. Now he’s weighed in on the trade between the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks that brings Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark to the Chiefs in exchange for the Chiefs’ first-round pick on Thursday and the less valuable of the team’s two 2020 second-round picks. As part of the deal, the teams have also agreed to swap their third-round picks on Friday.
Barnwell thinks the trade has a clear winner. He’s given the Chiefs a D- for the trade, and the Seahawks a B.
Barnwell thinks the Chiefs gave up a lot in the deal.
When you calculate the value of each pick using Chase Stuart’s draft value chart, this trade values Clark at 21.1 points of draft capital, which is somewhere between the seventh and eighth overall selections in a typical draft. Most organizations would build in some level of a discount because the 2020 second-round pick is delayed compensation, but you get the idea.
Barnwell argues that because the Chiefs also had to negotiate a new contract with Clark as part of the deal — which has been reported to be for five years and $105 million — you have to consider the surplus value the Chiefs could have obtained by using that same draft capital to move up to the seventh or eighth pick and draft a player who might provide production far beyond his cost to acquire — using players like Roquan Smith, Christian McCaffrey and Jack Conklin as examples.
Just to pick a round number, those guys would each make somewhere around $10 million if they hit the open market this offseason. Having four years of a player like that would create more than $20 million in surplus value over that $4.9 million per year figure. If you add that onto Clark’s deal, since that’s the draft capital it cost to acquire him, you’re looking at paying Clark closer to $26 million per year than the $21 million figure.
This assumes, of course, that a player drafted in the first quarter of the first round will provide that production, which we know isn’t always true. Clark is a player who has consistently provided production to the Seahawks in a similar defensive scheme.
But after comparing the deal to the one the San Francisco 49ers gave to Dee Ford — a contract the Chiefs might have been able to negotiate with Ford themselves — Barnwell also acknowledges there’s another way to look at it.
Combine these deals and maybe it’s not as damning. The Chiefs traded away Ford, their first- and third-round picks, and a 2020 second-rounder to get back Clark, a slightly better third-round pick and a 2020 second-rounder from the 49ers. If the Chiefs wanted to upgrade at pass-rusher without paying Ford, they eventually got there.
No team wins the Super Bowl in March — or even April. Evaluations are interesting — and also valuable in their own way; it’s true that an important part of an NFL general manager’s job is to make the sure the finite amount of draft and salary capital available to them is used wisely.
But in the final analysis, the most important goal is to maintain — and if possible, improve — the fortunes of the team; the stewardship of the team’s resources is only a means to that end. If the Chiefs improve their chances as a result of this deal, few if its fans will ultimately have a problem with it — even if they think it stinks right now.
It’s just going to take a while to see how it plays out.
Six years ago, the Chiefs traded two second-round picks to acquire quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers. While that deal had few similarities to the one that Chiefs have just made — its cost in draft capital wasn’t as high, and Smith played on his existing contract for his first year in Kansas City — at the time it was made, it was still seen by many as a misuse of the team’s resources.
Given what occurred during the five years that Smith started as the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs — and how having Smith put the Chiefs in a position to acquire Patrick Mahomes with an offense ready to shine under his leadership — it’s hard to make that argument now.
Like the Smith deal, the Clark trade may soon be seen as one of the signature moves of Brett Veach’s tenure as Chiefs general manager. Like the Smith deal, there’s a legitimate argument that the Chiefs gave up too much for Clark.
But also like the Alex Smith trade, we may eventually see the Frank Clark trade as the right move for the franchise.
Only time will tell.
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