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Cory's Corner: Clay Matthews needs to be honest with himself

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Cory's Corner: Clay Matthews needs to be honest with himself

It’s time for Clay Matthews to take a long look in the mirror.

The eight-year pro needs to be honest with himself. His production has tapered off in the last two years — yet he’s scheduled to be the No. 2 highest paid Packers player behind Aaron Rodgers.

Matthews’ $15 million cap hit for 2017 is especially disconcerting for a Green Bay team that desperately needs to reload on defense after getting throttled in the NFC Championship Game by Atlanta. Matthews is third in the NFL in pay for outside linebackers behind Justin Houston and Von Miller.

Thanks to nagging shoulder and hamstring injuries, Matthews is not the No. 3 edge rusher in the league. I don’t think Matthews is even top 10.

And this is where the Packers and Matthews have to find some common ground. In order for the Packers to get quicker and more dynamic, Matthews cannot be a financial albatross. Matthews turns 31 in May and is an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

You hate to always bring up the Patriots, but if Matthews refused to take a pay cut in New England, you can bet that Bill Belichick wouldn’t think twice about cutting him. Tom Brady had one of the better seasons as a quarterback this year, yet he has to know that Belichick is still very close to cutting the aging superstar.

In Matthews’ favor is the fact that he’s a team player. He agreed to be a hybrid linebacker a couple years ago when he flip-flopped between inside and outside. That needs to be taken into consideration but shouldn’t be the end-all be-all.

Matthews has been a solid player for the Packers, but his injuries combined with his lack of explosion don’t help his cause.

He needs to understand that the Packers defense can be great but it won’t start until he’s honest with himself. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (58) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Horse's picture

Of course, you'd be assuming CMIII is being dishonest with himself, the team and fans. Amazing how you can detect this while sitting at a computer.

RCPackerFan's picture

I think it should be more of the Coaches need to be honest with themselves more then Mathews.

Mathews when healthy is a disruptive force. Problem is playing at OLB he can't stay healthy. And playing him purely at the ILB position he is not as effective because ILB takes away what Mathews is best at. Getting after the QB.

The best role for Mathews is playing a Hybrid ILB spot. One that is tailor made for him personally. Not the normal ILB role that Jake Ryan or Joe Thomas plays, but one that allows him to blitz and move around and simply attack. Just like how he played in the 2nd half of the 2014 season. He was technically an ILB but he moved around everywhere and blitzed from every where. That is the role they need him to play.

The only 2 seasons in which Mathews played all 16 games has come when he was playing ILB. Its time to make the switch, and start scheming a new defense with Mathews moved around.

Nick Perry's picture

This is where I wholeheartedly agree with what RC is saying. Afterall it was McCarthy who said Matthews is going back to his best position, OLB. Well that's what happened and the injuries were back and the production was down, WAY down.

Matthews is still fast enough, strong enough, and quick enough to play ILB. Like RC pointed out, Matthews best spot would be in a position inside where he can move around and blitz from wherever and whenever it's called for. Matthews days trying to beat 320 pound LT's with feet like Bakhtiari seem to have come to an end. The writing was on the wall in 2014 when he had 2.5 sacks from OLB through 8 games. After they moved him inside he had 8.5 through the last 8 games and 1 more in the playoffs.

RCPackerFan's picture

In 2014 Mathews had 8.5 sacks in 8 games playing the hybrid ILB role.
In 2015 he had 6.5 sacks in 16 games playing purely ILB.
In 2016 he had 5 sacks playing in 12 games (9 starts) playing OLB.

I think its pretty easy to see the role that he best fits. Its time that Capers realizes this and schemes around Mathews playing they Hybrid ILB spot and allow him to be used in ways that he is best at.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I'm not a fan of taking speed hits at ILB and paying 15 million dollars to do it.

That said, I'm not a fan of this whole Shitzburg scheme. If you want to have Matthews in the middle of a 4-3 with fast edge rushers, fast OLB's, Daniels at 3 tech and a big ol War Daddy I'm in.

dobber's picture

"The best role for Mathews is playing a Hybrid ILB spot. One that is tailor made for him personally. Not the normal ILB role that Jake Ryan or Joe Thomas plays, but one that allows him to blitz and move around and simply attack."

While you don't want to see CMIII dropping into coverage very much (which is what I would be trying to force him to do as an opposing play caller seeing him showing on the inside), I would argue that right now the role you're describing for him is more of a Sam in an even front.

Tundraboy's picture

Another example of team going away from what was working. I appreciate Matthews "sacrificed" but that is what a team is all about. We have enough injuries that we can ill afford to have multiple players who only play 9 to 10 games a year. If team D overall is better and he plays 16 what's to decide?

Nick Perry's picture

Cory, Cory, Cory..... I will forever defend you guys here at Cheesehead TV because it's you guys that make the site possible. But Tom Brady only made $13.7 Million in 2016 and is due just $14 Million next season. Now Belichick may think about it in 2018 when his cap hit is $22 Million but even then he might wait until 2019 when Brady makes $22 Million but the dead money is only $7 Million.

Obviously the guy could fall off the face of the QB world at any minute playing the game at his age. But based on last season he might just have 2 GOOD seasons left because he was GREAT last season. I guess playing for that salary is possible when your wife makes about $50 Million a year. Plus he knows his boss will go out and sign FA with the money he's saving from Brady.

Edit... Not trying to be a jerk Cory, just pointing out that Brady isn't paid close to what he could be.

Donster's picture

Brady will be allowed to retire when Belichick decides it is time for him to go. Not get cut, or traded. He has done to much for the PatRats. I would expect Brady wouldn't want to play for anyone else anyway. He doesn't need the money. He wants the legacy of going out as a Patriot. I don't like him. But I respect the heck out of his football abilities. I'm sure Kraft wants him to leave the game as a Patriot.

marpag1's picture

Totally agree. The very notion that "Bellichick is still very close to cutting the aging superstar" (Brady) is probably the most ridiculous thing I've heard in months.

Lancer's picture

I don't see the Packers doing anything this year about CM III's salary. It's not like they would use it on a high end FA. Clay was hurt most of the year and played one armed down the stretch, the Packers will give him a pass but expect more next season.

As a fan, I have to agree CM III's entertainment value isn't worth $15 million given all the games he misses and plays injured, but he is one of the only playmakers on defense. If he doesn't perform in 2017 I think the Packers may have to walk away. I think Cobb is in a similar position. Thanks.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Cut Brady? That must be a typo.

Anyway, Matthews should move inside where his instncts and intelligence will pay greater dividends, and his still-pretty-good athleticism will be plenty for another year.

In that role, I'd like to see him take a modest pay cut. Not too major, as he has really sucked it up for this team in the past.

Donster's picture

Move him back inside. Try to get him to take a pay cut. If he balks at either, try to trade him. Hell, TT cut Sitton, I don't think he would hesitate to cut Matthews.

MarkinMadison's picture

No one is going to take on that contract.

Nick Perry's picture

Nope, I don't even think Jed York or Matt Millin would or would have taken on that contract.

dobber's picture

TT had a piece that he felt he could plug in for Sitton. Right now, they don't have enough OLB under contract to come close to making it go. Cut, no, but CMIII is smart enough to see that he's vulnerable after this season when his cap hit drops to essentially (if not truly) zero. If approached to take a pay cut in return for guaranteeing more of his contract (in essence, a raise), I think he's smart enough to listen.

Nick Perry's picture

Excellent point dobber. They have a total of 5 Linebackers under contract for 2017, just Matthews and Frackrell are OLB.

Savage57's picture

Matthews issue isn't the contract. No one put a gun to either side's head and said 'sign it'. It's his production relative to the amount, the unit cost of his contributions.

His 5 sacks last season would equate to $3M per. It's been in the $1-2M per sack area the last few seasons. His tackle numbers are average, his FF and recoveries are average. The only thing that isn't is the coin going his way.

At this point, bromancers will trot out The Finley Fallacy, "he's a matchup nightmare, who needs to be accounted for." Yeah, opposing teams do that by telling the left tackle to block him.

I want the guy on the Packers, just not at the ridiculous amount of money he's being paid for middling production.

cuervo's picture

A pay cut won't happen, in fact I cannot remember TT
ever asking a player to take a pay cut...does anyone else?

That said, he should...Matthews is massively overpaid and has been for a number of years. Cutting his pay to 7 mil or so with incentives....he won't get that anywhere else. If he balks, I would cut him....we are not remarkably better with him on the field.

At the same time, they should do the same thing with Cobb, for the same reasons.

They are both good players, but neither is in the top half of players at their position, and their salary should reflect that. Of course, IF they both agreed to a pay cut, would Ted actually use the money to sign free agents? I think we all know the answer to that.

Nick Perry's picture

AJ Hawk was asked I believe. He signed a 5 year contract in 2011 and was asked to restructure it over the final 3 years of the contract in 2013.

dobber's picture

He was cut outright before signing that deal in 2011, right?

Nick Perry's picture

Yup and then brought back on a 5 year deal for like $33.75 Million. They cut him to avoid picking up his option year at $10 million from his rookie deal but then grossly overpaid him for the next few seasons until he took the cut.

egbertsouse's picture

He needs to take a pay cut or get cut. If Teddy pays him Vonn Miller money to get 4 sacks he should be fired. Of course, he should have been fired after the Sitton fiasco. Getting nothing for a pro bowler was inexcusable.

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

I believe Matthews could be a great inside linebacker for the next 2 to 3 years if he and the team both committed to him playing there primarily with the occasional hybrid /pass rusher look. And if he did, the salary wouldn't bother me, mostly because tt doesn't value the ilb position more than a 4th round player and an athlete like Matthews, even at 31+, isn't there in round 4 without huge red flags. With the same reasoning Cobbs deal bothers me way more. TT has shown the willingness and ability to spend a 2nd or 3rd almost every year on a Wr and has hit on most of them. But either way, I'm not going to hate on someone for getting paid in the business of the NFL. Both seem like good people, their salary doesn't make the cost of a ticket, beer or parking to go up or down, and it's not like the money would be going somewhere else if it wasn't going to them. Here's to another off-season of who won't we sign, getting way to excited about the next 5 udfas to make the team, a run of injuries no one understands, a divisional round exit again, and another what could have been this time next year

stockholder's picture

When I saw this article. I could only think of julius Peppers. I think thats a good comparison now. He's still the leader. Some guys you just have to over-pay. Mathews may not be worth the money in some peoples eyes. But he's still a favorite player of many. He is a packer. And I'm sure if we don't magnify his faults, he'll still play his heart out. No one has yet to take his place. Why Bitch when he still gives a chance to win. If you want Mathews to look in the mirror, you better start with the secondary. The same could be said of several WRs that get the hype for 1 year. Mathews really has become a legend in Green Bay. I think thats worth more than an off year.

Razer's picture

I agree. Matthews and Perry playing through injury and working for the team translates to a leadership that is hard to monetize. Hoping that Mike Daniels or Clay Matthews carries the day every Sunday isn't realistic. Getting more results from the defense as a whole is the picture that must be addressed.

Nick Perry's picture

Off topic....... An article on ESPN about 32 players who need a "Change of Scenery". Obviously these are nothing more than articles of "click bait" but I sure liked the idea of the player the Eagles need to move on from...Mychal Kendricks.

26 years old, fast, excellent in coverage and blitzing the QB. He just doesn't fit in Schwartz's 4-3 defense, but would be an awesome fit in Capers defense, especially with Matthews inside.

Go get him Ted!

Razer's picture

Yes, I read this as well. A miscasted player such as Kendricks could replace one of our miscasts (like Datone Jones). I like that we would get faster and maybe a bit more instinctive. As for fitting into a Caper defense, I am not sure what fits this system. I am still looking for the strength and merit of a Caper's defense.

dobber's picture

I don't think you're saying he'd take on Jones's role in the defense...Kendricks would probably displace Joe Thomas and become the true 3-down ILB this defense has been looking for. I'm not sure what Kendricks will be looking for in terms of salary, but if he gets cut, he's the kind of acquisition TT looks for.

I agree with Nick: he creates the immediate flexibility in this defense that I think they're hoping to get from Martinez. Now you have an ILB/ILB hybrid rotation of CMIII, Kendricks, Ryan and Martinez.

dobber's picture

In the end, this kind of signing would meaningfully raise the overall talent level (and flexibility) on defense. Assuming he doesn't ask for the house, he should be someone TT kicks the tires on once he's cut.

stockholder's picture

I tried to trade him for Devante Adams 2 years ago. I was told I was nuts. I tried to say the packers needed a DE yet. Shawn Oakman was a FA that I felt should be looked into. Of course no one can condone what has been going on with baylor. But Rex got pi**ed, and banned me off ACME (SB NATION) for my conclusions. They wanted him hung. Water over the Damn. But look how the packers still keep going back to LB's and DE's. Were still stuck with a bad defense. This has been nothing but a merry- go- round, for the packers. I wish some writers just would n't close their eyes, and only praise TT. I think that idealism has it's place. But a 24th rated defense suggest somebody is not doing their job.

Razer's picture

... He needs to understand that the Packers defense can be great but it won’t start until he’s honest with himself...

I am not sure what honesty has to do with a great Packers defense. Our de facto base defense is two down linemen and Peppers and Matthews trying to run around the tackles. We fundamentally play a prevent defense most of the time and don't do a very good job of it.

Aside from the occasional Mike Daniels explosion we are not talented enough to generate consistent pressure on average O-lines. Rolling it all up to Clay Matthews because of his contract probably misses the point of this lousy defense.

Tarynfor12's picture

If we were to use the WAR that is used in baseball, Wins above Replacement, Matthews may actually prove less or equal a need to a replacement of a average ability without the cap hit. I never believed Matthews to be a top 5 Outside Linebacker...Packer fans are much quicker to anoint falsely a player to extreme levels above their true level of worship.

dobber's picture

I don't think Packers fans are any quicker to do so than any other fan base.

Tarynfor12's picture

Seriously. ..Finley, Perry, Lacy to offer short list of overrated, over hyped with one being designated as a must sign via the false narrative of game changer. Which again asks, do the Packers win more, equal or less with him on the field. The answer is equal or less, thus dictates the erasure of must sign and overpay possibility.
The offense winning in spite of lacking defensive play of a few, can only be sustained so long, as recently and yet regrettably again.

dobber's picture

Find me another fan base of a team that has had success that doesn't immediately canonize the guy who makes a big play or tout that 5th round pick as the steal of the draft. It happens in the blogs for Dallas and Oakland and many of these other teams. I'm not saying that we aren't guilty of the same; I was just responding to the assertion that other fan bases are decidedly more objective than that of the Packers. I'm arguing that they really aren't, by and large.

Re: "Packer fans are much quicker to anoint falsely a player to extreme levels above their true level of worship."

Tarynfor12's picture

" Find me another fan base of a team that has had success that doesn't immediately canonize the guy who makes a big play"....

I wouldn't begin to try as any team that is being successful,varying degrees of that definition understood and respected,has a right to canonized a player to said status but knowing such as being absolute is akin to not remembering what one may have or hadn't done during a hard night of brain cell declination participation.

The hard truth is hard because it's hard to accept.Fans by majority realize this too late more often via the canonizing of false heroes.

Real heroes are generational at best or less given circumstance The Packers have had a larger and more frequent share the last 25 years, and the bestowing of such idolization upon the average or just above is more apt to be easily misguided.

Matthews,based on stats of others during the same period and position would lose in the head to head with most for Hall of Fame induction right now if honest via play with genealogy left out, where much of that was used to incite his must be great rhetoric. : )

Tarynfor12's picture

" Find me another fan base of a team that has had success that doesn't immediately canonize the guy who makes a big play"....

I wouldn't begin to try as any team that is being successful,varying degrees of that definition understood and respected,has a right to canonized a player to said status but knowing such as being absolute is akin to not remembering what one may have or hadn't done during a hard night of brain cell declination participation.

The hard truth is hard because it's hard to accept.Fans by majority realize this too late more often via the canonizing of false heroes.

Real heroes are generational at best or less given circumstance The Packers have had a larger and more frequent share the last 25 years, and the bestowing of such idolization upon the average or just above is more apt to be easily misguided.

Matthews,based on stats of others during the same period and position would lose in the head to head with most for Hall of Fame induction right now if honest via play with genealogy left out, where much of that was used to incite his must be great rhetoric. : )

jfajas's picture

So many people here mentioning the patriots, so what would Bill Belichick do? Well in the latest article in the media about his greatness in the cap era, he said to a GM (recomending the signing of a player) "You'll find good VALUE there "
Well CM53 isn't good value, not even average value at that. So paying him Von Miller type of money is just idiotic. He needs to take a MASSIVE pay cut (3/4 million + incentives) or be cut. We need the money to add good players to that D and win the superbowl.

Point Packer's picture

Most overpaid player on the roster and top five in the league. Constantly man-handled by average to sub par LTs the last two seasons. Dominated and insvisible when going against good ones.

Not a top 10 edge rusher? Not even the best on this team (Perry) or potentially the second best (Peppers. May not have even been in the top 50 of edge rushers this past season.

Should have stayed inside. His versatility is one of his strengths at this point in his career.

Love to see percentage of times he was doubled teamed in pass pro. Didn't seem like teams were scared of him at all this year.

Average to bad against the run most of his career, minus the occasional splash play.

People will whine about this critique and blame the plethora of injuries. However, given his lack of any kind of consistent durability, his knack for injuries should have been and hopefully will be part of a contract renegotiation.

Casey Hayward was paid 8 million less than Clay Mathews in 2016..

Point Packer's picture

Most overpaid player on the roster and top five in the league. Constantly man-handled by average to sub par LTs the last two seasons. Dominated and insvisible when going against good ones.

Not a top 10 edge rusher? Not even the best on this team (Perry) or potentially the second best (Peppers). May not have even cracked the top 50.

Should have stayed inside. His versatility is one of his strengths at this point in his career.

Love to see percentage of times he was doubled teamed in pass pro. Didn't seem like teams were scared of him at all this year.

Average to poor against the run most of his career, minus the occasional splash play. Was downright awful this year.

People will whine about this critique and blame the plethora of injuries. However, given his lack of any kind of consistent durability, his knack for injuries should have been and hopefully will be part of a contract renegotiation.

Casey Hayward was paid 8 million less than Clay Mathews in 2016..

Razer's picture

...Casey Hayward was paid 8 million less than Clay Mathews in 2016...

During his time in Green Bay, Casey Hayward struggled with his assignments and health. His drop in play from his rookie season was noticeable and few cried when a big contract wasn't offered by the Packers. I am sure that we all foresaw the pending injuries on defense prior to this year.

He flourished in San Diego and earned year one of his contract. If he gets injured next year or the Charger defense struggles, people could easily be asking him to take a paycut. If you want to take a micro view of player pay/performance then maybe we should ask Rodgers for half his salary back.

Point Packer's picture

"If you want to take a micro view of player pay/performance then maybe we should ask Rodgers for half his salary back."

Why would GB do that? Without #12, the 2016 Packers win maybe four games. Without Clay Mathews, they likely go 10-6.

Razer's picture

The point is that Rodgers played poorly for the first half of the season. Pay for play. Jared Cook under performed for two thirds of the season and was hurt. Maybe he should throw some of his 3.5 million back into the pot. If people are going to point to one man on a lousy unit and claim that he isn't worth his contract then we have a lot of pointing through the course of a season and a career.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"struggled with his assignments and health"

Sounds like the whole defense accept Daniels.

Point Packer's picture

And the two safeties, minus Burnett being slightly dinged up.

Since '61's picture

I don't think that TT will cut CM3s salary. If he did, how much would he cut and what would he do with the extra money? Probably not much if anything and realistically what could he do? The amount of the reduction would not be enough to add a true difference maker on defense. It might be enough to add another mid-range FA like Guion. We need better players than that if we are to significantly improve the defense. Cutting CM3s salary based on his 2016 performance seems punitive. If he has double digit sacks in 2017 should we go back and increase his salary? In that case we should sign every player to one year prove it contracts every season. Next, why should CM3 agree to a salary cut? For the good of the team? Yet we want to say that if he doesn't agree to a cut the team should cut him? Not a very cooperative approach by the team is it? Why should the team take an approach that could result in creating more questions for the defense than answers? I would prefer that TT focus on adding pass rushers and CBs to the defense, rather than depending on CM3 to make a sack on every pass play. Surround CM3 with other quality defenders and his salary will be a non-issue. Thanks, Since '61

Razer's picture

Balanced and thoughtful - thank you!

Since '61's picture

Thanks Razer! Just trying to be fair. Since '61

Lphill's picture

Give him the benefit of the doubt, he has been injured, he changed position, played with a bad shoulder for half of last season, and don't forget the play he made with the fumble recovery when everyone else just stood there and thought it was a dead ball . Against the Cowboys I think.

Razer's picture

Giants. That play epitomizes Clay Matthews on this defense. He, through great effort, applied the pressure, forced that fumble then hustles to make the recovery. He is always on. Unfortunately, he is only one - we just don't have enough horsepower to make this the norm for our defense.

We need more cowbell.

Tarynfor12's picture

".....the benefit of the doubt,"....
This is reasoning that is better, imo, left to less serious repercussions situations. Most businesses, the NFL is a business, must reduce this more the last 15+ years politically correct mindset, especially the NFL, as it's cost for real return value, are becoming more and more higher risk in regard to original assessment.
What the eyes want is always bigger the what the stomach can withstand.

dobber's picture

Gollum wants to know what you have in your pocketses.

idgafkurt's picture

Seems obvious, he takes a steep pay-cut or they let him go.

I believe they would free up around 11 million (15 million contract less 4 million in dead money) if they cut Matthews.

If they let Perry walk, and cut Clay, you are looking at enough money to sign a difference maker on the edge like Chandler Jones, with money left over...

Tarynfor12's picture

Dobbler

That tangible ability that many curiously wonder as real or myth, that sets some apart from mere mortals....

al bundy's picture

First, let's not assume he actually gives a shit. With commercials and a big pay check and knowing he is a fan favorite lving nicely off that sb play of yor, he peobably will not take a cutin pay and maybe wouldnt mind moving on if the money and op were there.

GRB1531's picture

It is time for Clay to take a cut for the team. I know he was injured for some of the games last year but when you look at his salary in 2016 and the tackles he made it is ridicules. He can no longer over power a lineman so he has to use his speed to go around the line and make tackles from the rear. Take a cut and maybe TT will use the money to help purchase a free agent that can cause havoc on a QB. This will improve our defensive backs who won't have to cover receivers for more than 10 or more seconds. We should have money by releasing Shields, Jones and Peppers. Lets get a legitimate pass rusher.

techmasti's picture

Nice

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