NFL news on a Saturday morning. Here’s what we know regarding defensive end Frank Clark’s most recent legal issue, and how his latest gun charge could impact the Kansas City Chiefs going forward.
Frank Clark facing separate gun charges
Chiefs pass rusher Frank Clark has significant legal and professional headaches following yet another gun-related charge.
Los Angeles County prosecutors disclosed Friday that Clark has been charged with a felony count of possession of an assault weapon.
The charge stems from an incident in March, in which cops making a routine traffic stop allegedly spotted two loaded firearms in an open duffle bag inside a vehicle shared by Clark and another man named Charles Smith. The guns recovered were a handgun and a rifle.
But that’s not Clark’s only legal issue. There’s a separate felony gun charge from June that authorities say involved an Uzi.
If convicted on the most recent charge, Clark could face up to three years in prison.
Kansas City Chiefs stay mum, NFL monitoring developments
The Kansas City Chiefs declined comment to NFL.com Friday evening and did not immediately respond to a request for one from Pro Football Network Saturday morning.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy provided this statement to PFN Saturday morning: “We have been monitoring all developments in the matter which is under review of the personal conduct policy.”
That policy subjects Clark to suspension, even if he is never convicted of a crime.
How does Frank Clark’s legal situation affect the Chiefs’ season outlook?
The Chiefs should prepare as if they will not have Clark at some point in the season. While the league is quiet for now, it’s hard to see Clark avoiding punishment.
But it might not be immediate. The NFL often allows the legal process to play out before deciding to suspend the player in question. The NFL might also consider placing Clark on paid leave while his cases are adjudicated.
Assuming Clark is gone from the team for any period of time, the Chiefs will need to be creative.
He’s essentially an every-down player. Clark was on the field for 70.3 percent of Kansas City’s defensive snaps last year (highest on the team among all non-defensive backs).
That usage is reflective of the five-year, $104 million contract Clark signed before the 2019 season. He is due $18.5 million in base salary this year with a $25.8 million cap figure. But if Clark is suspended, his guarantees would vanish, and the Chiefs could move on with a manageable cap situation.
They also surely know such a decision would diminish their football team. Clark had 25 pressures and 6 sacks with 10 knockdowns in 2020 and is just three years removed from a 13-sack season.
Who do the Chiefs have on the depth chart behind Clark?
The Chiefs were already considering having Chris Jones play on the edge more this year, and that role would presumably grow in games missed by Clark.
Beyond that, there’s not much. Kansas City hasn’t drafted a defensive end in the first two days since taking Breeland Speaks 2018. Speaks is no longer on the team.
The defensive ends who currently are on the Chiefs’ roster? Taco Charlton, Mike Danna, Austin Edwards, Demone Harris, Malik Herring, Joshua Kaindoh, and Tim Ward. Combined, they had fewer sacks than Clark did a year ago.
Charlton, the former first-round NFL Draft pick who has been on three teams the last four seasons, is the most likely candidate to replace Clark, should he miss time.