Contract Signed, Will Clarke Starts OTAs with Bengals - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Contract Signed, Will Clarke Starts OTAs with Bengals

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MORGANTOWN - Will Clarke did not want to waste any time in his rookie campaign.

The very same day that the Cincinnati Bengals got on the field to begin offseason workouts, the team announced that it had signed the former Mountaineer to his first NFL contract.

Clarke, a third-round selection, agreed to a four-year deal that is reportedly worth upwards of $560,000 for his first season.

While at West Virginia, Clarke starred in a number of defensive schemes, having played under three coordinators and two position coaches. He said leading up to the NFL Draft that his versatility would benefit him as any number of teams contacted him for either defensive end or outside linebacker help.

The Bengals envision Clarke with his hand in the dirt, rushing off the edge and making noise in the backfield, but that doesn’t mean he won’t line up at tackle and play more of an interior role at times.

At this point, he has probably grown tired of the comparisons between he and former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson.

Johnson had a very similar frame to the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Clarke and racked up more than 20 sacks in the past three seasons before landing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. Clarke not only mirrors Johnson physically, but he has also been assigned the same number that Johnson used to sport on the Cincinnati sideline: 93.

Clarke told Bengals.com that he is hopeful he can create a name for himself with his skill set rather than simply filling another players’ shoes.

“I bring intensity, of course, speed off the edge,” Clarke said. “I’m a very versatile and balanced defensive end, a guy that will get in the backfield, make disruptive plays, add sacks and tackles for loss to the defense.”

The Bengals staff has expressed interest in getting Clarke to add some weight ahead of the season with a goal of about 280 pounds well within his reach.

“Will is a guy who has had some production at West Virginia in three seasons there,” head coach Marvin Lewis told Bengals.com. “He’s over 6-foot-6, big wing span, he’s got great athleticism and ability and we really feel like he can come here and develop and really grow into what we want as an NFL defensive end.”

Cincinnati defensive line coach Jay Hayes is eager to have Clarke on the field with a veteran group and allow him to soak up all that will be asked of him throughout their closed workouts this week. He may be a rookie, but the competition for playing time begins as soon as he puts on the helmet and shoulder pads.

“Right now, he’s going to be able to learn from some guys that are experienced players,” Hayes said, pointing to Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers. “He will learn from those guys and get an opportunity to mix in there with [second-year defensive end] Margus Hunt and the rest of the guys that are at the position and we’ll see what happens.”

Early reports out of Cincinnati are that Clarke has allowed his actions and his accomplishments in the weight room do his talking as he remains focused on the work ahead. With the contract signed, it is time for the former WVU defender to prove his worth in the NFL. 

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