The Green Bay Packers find themselves in need of cap space before the start of the new league year next month. One way to free up cap space is to take some of your best players and give them contract extensions. That allows the player to get more money up front in the form of a signing bonus while the team gets a smaller cap hit for the coming season and locks up a star player for the foreseeable future. Here is why GM Brian Gutekunst should look to extend defensive lineman Kenny Clark before the start of the new league year.

First Reason the Packers Should Extend Kenny Clark: Clark’s Strong Play

Clark remains the Packers best defensive lineman. He earned Pro Bowl honors for the third time in 2023 after enjoying a career-best season.

The former first-round pick out of UCLA recorded 7.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss. All those numbers matched or set new career bests for Clark. He also knocked down three passes and forced a pair of fumbles.

Clark also had the best run defense grade of any Packers interior lineman according to Pro Football Focus. He remains one of the few defensive linemen in the NFL who can stop the run and get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Second Reason to Extend Clark: The Cap Hit

The 2024 season will be the final year of Clark’s current contract. His cap hit for this season is scheduled to be $27.5 million. Even for a player of Clark’s abilities, this is a high salary.

The Packers need to free up cap space before the start of the league year in order to sign free agents and sign their draft picks. The team has several glaring needs including safety, linebacker, interior offensive line, and running back. They need additional cap space to improve these areas.

If the Packers sign Clark to an extension, they can convert much of Clark’s 2024 salary to a signing bonus and spread it out over the length of his extension. Clark’s cap hit for 2024 can be reduced.

Third Reason the Packers Should Extend Kenny Clark: Change Is Coming to the Defense

Head coach Matt LaFleur fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry and brought in Jeff Hafley to replace him. Hafley has announced he is changing the team’s base defense to a four-man front rather than the three-man front Barry employed.

The new defense will be modeled on the 49ers system and will be more aggressive. Hafley will certainly want his best defensive lineman available for his defense. In addition, the four-man front should give Clark the opportunity to move around from position to position in order to create the most favorable matchups.

There is certainly potential for Clark to play even better in 2024 under the more attack-oriented defense Hafley plans to install.

Fourth Reason to Extend Clark: He’s Still Got Time

Despite having played in the NFL for eight seasons, Clark is still only 28 and won’t turn 29 until October.

Clark’s contract expires after the 2024 campaign. As of now, he also has three void years after the Packers restructured him.

By extending Clark now, they can lock up their best defensive lineman and one of their best players overall for the rest of his prime. They can reduce Clark’s cap hit for 2024 which will also give the team more money to sign players for the coming NFL season.

The result would be a win-win situation for the player and the team. Clark would receive more guaranteed money up front in the form of the signing bonus while the Packers would get more cap space and lock up their best defensive lineman for the rest of his prime.

Do not be surprised if the team announces an extension with Clark before the start of the next league year. This is one of several moves Gutekunst should make to prepare the team for a season with very high expectations.


Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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