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Packers’ strong financial commitment to the defensive front is not done yet

Locking up Dean Lowry to an extension before Kenny Clark was an interesting development this week.

NFL: DEC 16 Packers at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An eye-opening financial splurge this offseason to the defensive front, particularly with pass rushers, has been among the biggest storylines of the Green Bay Packers in a year full of change. Even the first-round selection of Rashan Gary represented a further focus on that area of the defense. And with the news of a Dean Lowry extension on Tuesday, that deep commitment continued to the tune of another three-year, $20.3 million contract.

That Lowry was re-signed before the beginning of a contract year is not in itself a surprise, but perhaps the money raises some eyebrows. And some of that money might have become available through another surprise, the release of Mike Daniels on Wednesday.

Lowry, a former fourth-round pick, has been a durable, versatile, and a high-effort player along the line in starting 19 games over the past two seasons. While the Northwestern product did set career highs last season while becoming one of the team leaders in pressures, Lowry has tallied just seven sacks over the course of three seasons. Although the terms of the contract have not been finalized, a roughly $6.7 million average yearly income might seem a little high.

In light of Kenny Clark’s expiring contract in two seasons, the timing of Lowry’s deal was especially curious. Clark has emerged as one of the team’s biggest impact players as a run-stuffing tackle while posting a six-sack season in 2018. Green Bay picked up his fifth-year option this offseason and he figures to be on the hook for upwards of $7 million that fifth season. A long-term deal for Clark surely would command north of that figure on a yearly basis, and most likely would surpass the four-year, $41 million contract extension Daniels signed in 2015.

Such a deal would only add on to the $110 million potential figure owed to Lowry, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith over the next three seasons. At just 23 years of age and already a highly productive player, Clark’s value could meet or exceed the contract recently signed by Grady Jarrett, who received a staggering four-year, $68 million figure. While it can be argued Green Bay did not invest enough in its front seven players in previous seasons, and with the acknowledgement that keeping Clark is a priority, the money on the books between four players would be an incredible number. How would his potential signing influence a key contract decision at another position such as the Blake Martinez negotiation?

Though recent history suggests a new deal will come next offseason before the final year of Clark’s contract, it could be in the Packers’ best interest to sign Clark now before another breakout season. Perhaps money will be freed up to do so now in Daniels’ release. Either way, Clark’s time is coming and Lowry’s deal this week confirmed the Packers are serious about maintaining a strong defensive line, even at another heavy price.