The Kansas City Chiefs sent a message to their locker room and fans on Tuesday afternoon when they traded for Frank Clark. It’s an ugly one.
On Dec. 1, 2012, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered the mother of his child, Cassandra Perkins. Afterwards, he drove to the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot and shot himself in the head.
The next day, at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs had a moment of silence for all victims of domestic violence.
Apparently team owner Clark Hunt’s thoughts on the matter ended when the silence did.
Since then, Kansas City has become a haven for players with a history of abusing women. Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, now Frank Clark. On Tuesday, General Manager Brett Veach acquired Clark for a 2019 first (the No. 29 overall pick) and a 2020 second-round pick. The teams also exchanged third-round picks this year, the Chiefs getting a slight upgrade in draft position.
Minutes later, the Chiefs signed Clark to a five-year, $105.5 million extension with $63.5M guaranteed. By total contract and average annual salary, Clark is now the highest-paid player on the team. If you think that sits well with the players at One Arrowhead Drive, you don’t understand the NFL.
For Kansas City, there are reasons to believe Clark is a changed individual. Since arriving in Seattle as a rookie in 2015, he’s never been in trouble with the law. He’s also been continuously active in the community, perhaps turning the corner from monster to man.
Only time will tell whether the Chiefs, and the $105 million bet they are making, is a wise one. But it’s clear that the optics are not good.
In Kansas City, this is the ultimate all-in season. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes on a rookie deal and haven’t yet had to pay defensive tackle Chris Jones or, potentially, Hill. From a football standpoint, Clark immediately turns the front seven from a pronounced weakness into a legitimate strength. We saw the Los Angeles Rams do this a year ago, and it got them within a win of the Lombardi Trophy.
However, not everything is from a football standpoint.
There are a number of factors to consider, including what the rest of the locker room must think. It’s true that most players only care if a guy can perform. It’s also true that once you reward a man who has done evil, others aren’t so worried about their own misdeeds.
Along the same line of thought, what does paying Clark say to players who have been with your team for years and developed a winning culture.
Kansas City has made its position clear. The Chiefs value talent while bypassing all the red flags along the way. Winning is the main goal, the only goal, in a year that is the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s lone Super Bowl win.
Veach and the Chiefs are trying to win right now. At all costs. Literally.