By Jeff Herrera
Chris Clark has been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Clark, who went undrafted and has twice been cut from an NFL roster, currently finds himself starting at left tackle for what could be the greatest offensive unit in NFL history. A man who spent two seasons on Minnesota’s practice squad now protects the blind side of the NFL’s premier passer and holds the fate of the Denver’s Super Bowl dreams in his hands.
When Ryan Clady went down with a Lisfranc injury, the Broncos did not hesitate to name Clark the starter, and immediately rewarded their new left tackle with a two-year, $4.8 million contract extension. The widely held assumption was that Clark’s new contract was insurance against Clady’s injury. If Clady struggled to return, the Broncos already had his replacement locked up, guaranteeing there would be no hole at left tackle in the near future. But did John Elway and Broncos have an alternate purpose in securing Clark for the next two seasons at an affordable $2.4 million average salary?
Simply put, Chris Clark could be one of the Broncos most valuable trade assets this coming offseason. The Broncos may have seen an opportunity hidden within the unfortunate news of Ryan Clady’s injury. By banking on Clark performing admirably as Peyton Manning’s blind side protector, the Broncos could be creating a valued trade piece. Assuming Clady returns to full strength, Denver could be in the enviable position of having two proven starters at left tackle, an integral position that has historically been difficult to fill.
So far, Clark has been widely praised for his performance as a starter. He allowed a sack to the Raiders in his first start, but that has been the only real hiccup in a relatively smooth transition to starting left tackle. The Broncos pass protection unit has not missed a beat, still ranking first in least sacks allowed (5) and adjusted sack rate (3.1%).
Should Clark continue his solid performance and Clady return as expected, the Broncos will be able to shop Clark as a 28-year-old starting left tackle coming off a potentially record breaking offensive season, and under contract for two years at a backup’s salary. Trading Clady would not be likely due to his hefty contract and recent injury, but Clark could be a very appealing option around the league as a proven entity at a bargain price.