The Cincinnati Bengals are parting ways with fourth-year defensive end Will Clarke.
The Bengals drafted Clarke in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of West Virginia. Almost immediately, Clarke drew comparisons to Michael Johnson, another former third-round player in Cincinnati. Seeing how well Johnson's career has played out (especially prior to Clarke being drafted), you can see why Cincinnati took another swing hoping that could find another key contributor.
Clarke didn’t see the field much in his first two NFL seasons as he played the role of a reserve defensive end. He had opportunities last season, in his third year in the league, as Michael Johnson struggled, but, he didn’t provide a significant spark and when he received more playing time, he failed to significantly impress.
After the Bengals drafted Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis this year to help reinvigorate the pass rush, Clarke’s odds of making the final roster took a dive. That was even more true as the team traded with the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire defensive end Chris Smith during the offseason, too. Willis, Lawson and Smith all impressed in the preseason, making Clarke expendable in the final year of his rookie deal.
Clarke has played 35 games for the Bengals (0 starts) and has accumulated 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery, 4.5 sacks and 22 tackles. He does not have practice squad eligibility but another NFL team may want to take a chance on him, hoping a change of scenery reignites his career in the league.
Apparently, the Bengals tried to trade Clarke away, but found no takers.