Progress Report: Clark’s Odds-Defying Rookie Year

Once again, the Cowboys find themselves with over 20 players who have expiring contracts. But still, there’s a large percentage of players on the roster already in place. Over the next few weeks, the staff writers will evaluate those players under contract, reviewing their past performances with an outlook to the future. Today, we’ll continue the series with linebacker Damone Clark.

What Worked: The fact that Clark even made it onto the field in his rookie season was a revelation in and of itself. Clark underwent spinal fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk that was discovered by the Cowboys during the pre-draft process in 2022, though was still selected in the fifth round by the Dallas before spending the first part of the season on the non-football injury list. Clark went on to play in 10 games, including five starts, and racked up 47 tackles during that span. But his nose for forcing turnovers quickly showed itself, with Clark tallying two forced fumbles as well.

Needs Some Work: Clark will obviously benefit from having a healthy and normal offseason first and foremost, but his rookie season did not come without areas of his game to address during that time. Despite it being a decent sample size (59% of the defensive snaps) Clark was vulnerable in pass coverage by allowing 13 completions on 15 targets for 116 yards and two touchdowns. No doubt the Cowboys would like to see him also record his first career sack in 2023 after missing out last season.

His Best Work: Though he made his debut in Week 8 against the Bears, Clark made his first big play in Week 13 against the Colts, forcing a fumble that was recovered by former Colt Malik Hooker for a 38-yard touchdown to put the route into effect. Fast forward to Week 17 against the Jaguars, Clark reached his career-high in tackles with nine.

Contract Considerations: Heading into 2023, Clark is owed a base salary of $870,000 with a signing bonus of just north of $60,000 before his salary jumps to $985,000 in 2024 and $1.1 million the following season ahead of free agency.

What’s Next: The Cowboys would likely like to try and add a veteran linebacker to their existing group that includes Clark, Leighton Vander Esch and Micah Parsons just as they did with Anthony Barr a year ago. They could also elect to draft one, while they also have fellow LSU alum Jabril Cox and Devin Harper. Regardless, Clark will be a factor going forward after a promising 2022 rookie season.

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