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Is Clay Matthews’ Departure Not So Foregone a Conclusion?

Clay Matthews roughing passer

Clay Matthews (52) sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. Matthews received a roughing the passer penalty on the play. The Redskins won 31-17. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t need your rockin’ chair
Your Geritol or your Medicare
Well I still got Neon in my veins
This grey hair don’t mean a thing
I do my rockin’ on the stage
You can’t put this possum in a cage
My body’s old but it ain’t impaired
Well I don’t need your rockin’ chair

George Jones

Link for millennials

OLB Clay Matthews and Nick Perry seemingly were in identical straits when the free agency stampede approached. Each had been vastly overpaid compared to their work product in 2018, and each’s long-term contract was up. The Packers had their two replacements ready to be signed to long-term deals. Perry was released on March 12. Clay wasn’t. What should we make of this?

Beyond any question, Clay isn’t going to be paid the more than $10 million he’s become accustomed to getting. It‘s doubtful that more than a couple of the other 31 teams would court him at any price. His body has become ever more brittle over ten grueling seasons. He’s viewed as damaged goods.

But could he still have a future in Green Bay? I’d say that depends on whether Clay still wants to play in the NFL. If so, he needs to swallow his pride, take a one-year prove-it deal, and maybe even accept a backup role in the team’s linebacker corps. Mike Pettine also must be on board for this to happen.

The predominant view is that Matthews’ career is over. In 2018, he took 756 of the defensive snaps, or 71%. Next to him Blake Martinez took 1,049. In 2017, he took 62% of the snaps and in 2016 he took only 46%. Clay hasn’t been healthy since 2015, when he took 1,017 snaps (97%) and recorded 11 sacks. And when Clay has played of late, he’s been at less than full strength for much of that time.

In favor of such an arrangement, in the past three years Clay has played a substantial amount of time as an inside linebacker – at this stage, he performs better in the middle than on the edge – he’s a capable run-stopper. DC Mike Pettine likes to mix things up, and Clay could provide him with lots of options.

With Clay, all many of us do is count his annual sacks: 6.5, 5, 7.5, and 3.5 most recently. It’s undeniable that his numbers are down across the board, but they tend to be in relation to how often he gets on the field. And if we’re just counting sacks, the 20% or so of the time he’s been playing on the inside have also diminished those numbers.

Should Gutekunst and his mates have any inclination to retain Clay, he could start alongside Martinez at ILB. He could also be a backup and relief man for all four linebacker spots. If he isn’t up to the task, it doesn’t leave the team in a hole – there’s Kyler Fackrell, Oren Burks, and possibly Jake Ryan (remember him?) available – though if Clay stays the team would likely part ways with Ryan, who makes Clay look like a picture of health.

Clay Matthews

Clay certainly doesn’t need the money. I’d love to know how much he makes from commercials alone. If he has any future left, Green Bay is probably the best spot for him – just ask Jordy. Or ask Morgan Burnett, who in January begged the Steelers to release him from the last two years of his 3-year deal.

We’ve watched Clay over the years go from an ego-driven stallion to a self-deprecating guy. In commercials, he’s Gabby Hayes, the clumsy sidekick to Aaron Rodgers. I recall one post-game interview last year in which he was asked about the refs nullifying a couple of his sacks by calling penalties on him, and he good-humoredly responded that there messing with the numbers that have kept him in the league.

Clay and the Packers have had a mutually beneficial relationship for most of the past ten years. He’s only 32. How about crossing fingers that Clay stays in decent health, and offering him one more year at $4-5 million?

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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17 Comments

  1. WinterisHere March 15, 2019

    Too much, maybe 2-3m at most. With 10 draft picks, there will be plenty of backups who want playing time, and would need some to develop. If he comes back to GB I think it will be with the understanding of ‘we are going to move you around and plug different positions, but we really want you to mentor the younger guys.’
    But that is just me…

    Reply
  2. PF4L March 15, 2019

    I’ll take a part time Clay Mathews over the rest of the linebackers sans Martinez, maybe Fackrell (idk yet).

    If you could get him for 4 million, you sign the brother up, period. Whether he starts or not I’d rather have him as beast 40% of the time, than have as “meh” 100% of the time. Also as Rob noted, Pettine could do some damage play scheming if he has Clay at his disposal.

    As usual Rob did impeccable research. But i don’t think Perry’s long term contract was up. I also don’t think Mathews is in any kind of “prove it” mode whatsoever. Clay is what he is, he can bring serious heat on occasion, and that’s why you want him around, fresh, and ready when you need the beast. I believe if he’s fresh and he comes in, he can still bring it, better than most.

    Reply
    1. Howard March 15, 2019

      Agree! The only places other than GB I could see Clay going would be the Rams or Cleveland.

      Tried to respond to you on Turner on the other article but lost the comment twice. Don’t know if it was me or I’m not on the white list? It was a fairly long comment so…

      In general Turner and the others will be overpaid in 2 or 3 years if they don’t pan out. Your comment “why not 4 million”? Is appropriate for Turner. I had a lot to say about Turner, but it is boring. Turner to me is a big upgrade over both Packer guards, and maybe Bulaga(? based on the new system).

      I don’t agree with overpaying, then having to release a player with multi million dollar dead cap hits, but the Packers could be in that position in 3 years with each of the 4 free agent signings. These guys will need to have their potential come through more like a Bakh rather than a Perry for this to work.

      One thing about these contracts. I have to believe the agents when negotiating, and Ball must be buying in on it, are bringing up that the NFL salary cap is going up about 10 mil a year. In three years the cap will be up approximately 30 mil. + or-. Z Smith’s cap hit will be a little over 20 mil., with P Smith’s being 16 mil. in years 3 and 4. 36 mil. a year for 2 OLBs is a lot of dollars.

      1. PF4L March 15, 2019

        I’m pretty sure Turner is overpaid as we speak, especially if he cashed that 9 million check he got. The others idk because i refuse to look at it. Funny we couldn’t pay Lang 7,5 million, but we can make this unproven cat rich. i don’t get it.

        As far as negotiating these deals. If you’re the CFO, i don’t think you justify deals on the basis that the salary cap will be going up. Maybe with a franchise QB, but surely not new players who you are expecting (hoping) that their future performance will justify their earnings. That’s what i meant when i said they were being paid on potential.

        I’m not saying it’s wrong (they’re trying), i am saying it’s very risky. But then again, after two losing seasons, i truly believe this team is in crisis mode and they are clearly going all in. A 3rd straight losing season in Green Bay with Rodgers is pretty much a disaster scenario. And if these free agent pickups don’t look good. Some in the hierarchy best freshen up those resumes.

  3. Jimbo March 15, 2019

    Clay Mathews played MLB in 2015 and was good but way over-hyped. He was a good rusher from the middle. He would need to play next to a fast linebacker as he wouldn’t be great to cover RBs out of the backfield.

    Keep in mind as a fulltime MLB he made 66 tackles in 2015 compare that to Martinez at 144 tackles.

    The only way he stays is as a hybrid pass rusher when Smith kicks inside.

    Reply
    1. PF4L March 15, 2019

      You make a good point Jimbo, but Mathews was also moved around, where as Martinez basically held his position. Also Mathews was out of his natural position, but point well noted.

      I’m not a Martinez hater. his tackles are there. but a lot of his tackles are downfield. that’s not a cut on him as he takes good angles and he’s fast enough to run them down. This team should be grateful they have him or things would be uglier than they are.

  4. Robster March 15, 2019
    Reply
  5. KILLER March 15, 2019

    You need Clay-mation for that locker room presence. Who else will sling an arm around the shoulders of a rookie and tell him best techniques for playing dirty or the best sources for PEDs and painkillers?

    Without Clay the PED stream may dry up. What then the Packers?

    Reply
    1. PF4L March 16, 2019

      You need huge pictures of the Lombardi trophy hung on the walls all over the new chili dome.

      How else are queen players and their fans supposed to know what one looks like?

      1. Cheese March 16, 2019

        They got to see a Lombardi trophy in person when Nick Foles hoisted it up in the air after the Eagles won the Super Bowl on Viking territory. This of course was a game that Minnesota could have played in, at home, but they lost to Foles and the Eagles two weeks before.

        1. TyKo Steamboat March 16, 2019

          ViQueens… How is their salary cap situation?

          Who you fairy boys going to cut? tick-tock…. Griffen took a 3 mill paycut… expect his play to become 3 million less too. … cut Rhodes? Smith? Hunter? tick-tock… Bye, bye Sheldon Richardson BTW. … tick-tock

  6. R.Duke March 16, 2019

    Well, Turner is an ascending player with movement skills for the outside zone game and a pretty articulate guy. Lang is contemplating retirement with concussion issues and cannot stay on the field with his back flaring up every other game. He paid his dues, he was well-compensated. He’s at the end of the line. Gutekunst will procure an OT in the early rounds to be the backup or compete with Bulaga as a Starter. ” Yesterday is dead and gone.” and so is Spriggs.

    Reply
  7. stiggy March 16, 2019

    Spriggs… lol. I feel like bj sander was a better pick.

    Never forget bj sander folks.

    Reply
  8. TyKo Steamboat March 16, 2019

    I watched him last season. He still plays pretty well. He is just slower. If we got him at 2 yrs, 7 million, I’d be very happy with that

    Reply
  9. Mitch Anthony March 16, 2019

    Jake Ryan is on his way to Jacksonville. If Clay would stay for a mutually beneficial deal, I’m all for it. He can still be an asset in situational schemes and platooning his play time throughout the (LB) lineup might be just the answer. I have long been aggravated by his whiffing and over-playing his edge but he can still bring the occasional pressure. Like others I also think he can do well coming from a MLB position so get him playing from the inside a bit more. So the sack numbers won’t be there. Big deal, they ain’t there now.

    I’m not at all sentimental about 52. If he does go somewhere else, then all the best to him. His actual “home” and commercial and media opportunities are in California so the Rams might just be the destination. But one more good year in Green Bay (while not be overpaid) might just be the deal.

    Reply
    1. Cheese March 16, 2019

      With Jake Ryan leaving for JAX, that means the entire draft class of 2015 is gone. Not one of them made it past their 4 year rookie contracts, and you could argue none of them really made much of an impact while they were here. Most of them only made it three years. Ty got traded half way through the season and Jake Ryan was injured all of last year. Draft and develop…. LOL.

  10. Steve March 16, 2019

    Perry had 3 years left on a 5 year deal… and was released. Mathews contract is up and is a free agent …. no release is necessary. Your facts are woefully inaccurate.

    Reply

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