Premiership heroes Lewis and Mitchell were traded in October following long and successful careers in brown and yellow, with many people believing the pair had to depart in order to make way for their younger successors O’Meara and Mitchell.
Clarkson refuted the claims on radio on Tuesday morning, saying that had they wanted to, they could have kept all four players on their books in 2017.
“We would have been pretty tight but we would have been able to,” Clarkson said.
“We were hoping that the actual recruiting of Tom and Jaeger was along the lines of learning from (Luke) Hodge, Mitchell and Lewis for 12 months or two years.
“They (the deals) were all independent of one another.
“There’s no point trying to trick anyone that our salary cap would have been really tight had we squeezed them all in but we would have got there.
“We had already gone to several of our players, we would have had to have done some manipulating of contracts, not in an illegal way (but) go to some of the players and say can you not take so much this year and take it later on?
“That process had already begun whether Sam and Jordan were at the club or not.”
It’s not something that would have been a surprise to Hawthorn’s senior players, with former captain Luke Hodge admitting some veterans took pay cuts to play on in 2017 when they signed one-year deals last season.
“Any senior player, once they get to this part of their career, they just want to play football.
“So whether you take a pay cut so your club can go and get other blokes in or pay the younger guys coming through, I think it’s a natural thing.
“I think we’ve proven over the last five or six years, if you take less we can bring in someone to help us be successful and we’ve been able to do that.”