When Kenny Clark went to bed early Friday night, he was ready to play out the final season of his five-year rookie contract with the Green Bay Packers. When he was awoken by his mom and agent in the middle of the night, the 24-year-old learned he was to become the highest-paid nose tackle in NFL history.
The team announced late Saturday morning it had signed the former first-round pick to a contract extension. The exact figures were reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter — four years and $70 million with a $25 million signing bonus. It made Clark the 12th-highest-paid defensive player in the league.
“It’s a blessing, man. It feels good,” Clark told reporters after the first practice of training camp. “I honestly don’t even know what to say. I’m just excited to be a Packer for the long haul.”
Former Packers GM Ted Thompson selected Clark with the 27th pick of the first round in 2016. He has started 46 games over the last four years, including all 16 last year when he earned a berth in the Pro Bowl fo the first time. He finished with 62 tackles, nine tackles for loss and tied his career-high with six sacks. In his career, he’s got 16.5 sacks rushing from a position not normally associated with getting after the quarterback.
“I think Kenny sometimes has been an underrated player for us over the years,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He’s such a solid force inside. I think his game has expanded every year. His ability to pass rush has been the biggest jump. He’s always been stout in the point of attack in the run game and quick enough to shed blocks. He’s lived on that side of the ball in mild anonymity, I think, at times.
“He’s a fantastic guy. He’s a quiet guy that goes about his business the right way. He’s found his voice at times. His leadership role has increased over the years. It’s been fun to watch him step into that opportunity. He’s one of those guys you know you can count on every single week.”
At such a young age, the feeling is Clark still has room to grow, and he sees that as well.
“My biggest thing is I’ve just got to be more consistent throughout the year,” Clark said. “Last year, I started off hot, kind of (cooled) off in the middle of the season and then ended off hot. I’ve just got to put a whole season together and be consistent on a game-in and game-out basis. That’s what they’re paying me to do, so that’s what I’ve got to bring every day.”
Clark’s deal means he’s tied to Green Bay for at least the next five seasons and that sounds just fine to him.
“It’s just a family here,” Clark said. “I love it here. I love the guys here. I love playing with everybody here. I’m just excited about being on this team.”