What It Would Take to Bring Clay Matthews Back to Green Bay

As soon as the Rams released Clay Matthews, many Packers fans called for his return to Green Bay. Here's what it would take to make that happen.

Since the Los Angeles Rams released OLB Clay Matthews on Thursday, fans Packers players and members of the media have speculated about a possible return to Green Bay for the former Packers star.

While this is not out of the question, there are several conditions that would have to be met for the Packers to welcome Matthews back to the team he started his NFL career with in 2009.

First, Matthews would have to be willing to sign a very reasonable contract. The Packers don’t have a lot of available cap space right now. Remember, they still need to sign all their draft picks before the start of the new season. They may also want to bring back one or two more of their own free agents like Tyler Ervin and Tramon Williams. Adding a reasonably-priced depth receiver is also not out of the question in free agency.

GM Brian Gutekunst may be more than happy to welcome Matthews back to the fold but only at a price at or slightly above the veteran minimum. Last year, the former USC star signed a two-year deal with the Rams worth up to $16.75 million and with $5.5 million guaranteed. Matthews may have to cut that guaranteed amount in half and would again have to sign a one or two-year deal if he wants to return to Green Bay.

Matthews would also have to be willing to accept a limited role in the defense which he may be willing to do. He will be 34 by the start of the new season and it may be time for him to pace himself more to be more effective when he is on the field. Last season Matthews started the season strong but faded down the stretch. He was a solid contributor overall to the Rams defense, but he had seven sacks in his first six games and then just one in his final seven contests.

If he plays OLB or edge, he would be behind Preston and Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary in the Packers depth chart which would make him OLB 4. On obvious passing downs, Gary and/or one of the Smiths could line up as defensive linemen and allow Matthews to rush the passer from the edge position. This would probably take place on roughly 30-40 percent of the defensive plays and put Matthews in a similar position that Gary was in last season.

If Matthews moves back to ILB, he is most likely to assume the role that BJ Goodson had in 2019. Goodson played ILB alongside Blake Martinez last season and was on the field when the Packers were in their base defense. Goodson was on the field for just 24 percent of the Packers defensive snaps according to ProFootballReference.com. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine prefers to play with one true inside linebacker in most passing situations and prefers to play a safety in a hybrid S/ILB position to make the team’s pass defense stronger.

In order to assume a substantial role for the Packers in 2020, Matthews would have to be willing to play some ILB in base defense and OLB or edge on passing downs.

Matthews still showed he has something left in the tank last season. He played in 56 percent of the Rams defensive plays while starting and appearing in 13 games. He missed three contests with a broken jaw suffered in Week 5.

Despite missing three games, Matthews still recorded 37 total tackles including eight sacks and nine tackles for loss. He was credited with 11 quarterback hits, 16 hurries and four knockdowns.

Last year, Matthews indicated he was willing to accept less money to return to Green Bay but Gutekunst wasn’t interested. I’m not sure if he’d be interested a year later but if the price is right, anything is possible.

Plenty of Packers players have returned to the fold after signing elsewhere including Tramon Williams, Elijah Pitts, Zeke Bratkowski, Devon House, Gilbert Brown and Mike Butler. The results have been mixed. Matthews would be worth the investment if he’s willing to meet the conditions necessary to return to Green Bay. It would be fitting to see “The Claymaker” finish his career in Green and Gold.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (56)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
PeteK's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:18 pm

He does not want to play ILB, so another team with a pass rushing need at OLB will scoop him up for about 3-4 mill, Fackrell money. I would rather spend 4 mill for Gabriel and Snacks.

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Coldworld's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:54 pm

You make a good point that, with money not in abundance, it’s not just what we get in Matthews but also what else that money could get us.

I didn’t watch Matthews last year much. He got 8 sacks but was deemed expendable. Given his contract one wonders why.

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:14 pm

The Rams are in serious salary cap purgatory. That was the main reason he was deemed expendable. But again, I agree he would not be the best way to spend the limited money the Packers have left to spend. Thanks for the comment.

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:12 pm

I agree PeteK. It's a sentimental thing that a lot of fans want Matthews back but I don't think it's likely at all. Thanks for commenting.

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murf7777's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:53 pm

How do you know that currently he won’t or doesn’t want to play ILB? Has he said something publicly? I’ve notice you and another state the same thing.

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jsb937's picture

March 23, 2020 at 05:10 pm

Old. Complete waste of opportunity to make it to the Superbowl. Look at the film last year as a Ram. He mailed it in. The idea is asinine .

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Lphill's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:21 pm

Get him back he was very good inside and he can still rush the passer , get a one year deal done .

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:37 pm

No. He was not good inside. Someone can go get his PFF rankings from 2015-16 when he played meaningful snaps at ILB, but my recollection is that he was rated as below average. The defense got better because the ILBs he pushed off the field were that bad, and it allowed Peppers--who was still good--to play a lot more snaps. Glad to be wrong, but he's not the answer, especially at the price he would need.

Rushing the passer from the ILB position is as much about good play calls, instincts, timing, and disguising your rush as anything else. We forget that Martinez had 5 sacks in 2018...and I don't think anyone would call him a great pass rusher.

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:24 pm

He was an improvement at ILB but he was far from an All-Pro. We are talking about a short-term solution and a guy who would be a situational role player at this point in his career. Thanks for the comment.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:33 pm

To say he was not "good" inside is not accurate. Do you know that PFF had David Mayo ranked as their #7 LB overall last season period? PFF rankings dont mean too much imho. And as far as that goes, I distinctly remember after the first few weeks of him at ILB he was top 3 in their rankings, although im not sure how he finished.

Point is, Clay Matthews was a very capable ILB. That was also 5 years ago, so if that was your argument than fine. But CM3 was certainly a good, not great, maybe even very slightly above average ILB. No matter where he lines up he is just very instinctual and opportunistic - while also being one of those guys that just seems to have a magnet to the football also

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Fredrik87's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:37 pm

I watched Mayo play in a few games last year and he was pretty good I was hoping we'd sign him cheap in free agency before he was extended by NY.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 06:07 pm

you and me both my friend. he was good on the panthers too. but hes not better than somebody like lavonte david

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Fredrik87's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:07 pm

Ok so quoting from PFF:
"Since 2009 there have been 136 players with 1,000+ snaps when lined-up as an ILB - Matthews ranks 29th overall with an 84.5 overall grade."

Also his ILB play was primarily in 2014 & 2015 not 2016.

I am not on really any side as far as signing Matthews go's just so long as we don't pay him a stupid amount of money.
If he were to cost under 4 Million I could probably get fully onboard with signing him.

But the ageing vet I really want GB to prioritize signing is Tramon and if it were to become a choice on who to spend the money on I'd be leaning Williams way heavily.

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:34 pm

Thanks, Fredrik. I stand down on my PFF statement.

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:15 pm

That would be the only way to get him back. I think it will only happen if Matthews doesn't have any better offers and I think he will get some. Thanks for commenting.

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Bure9620's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:40 pm

Do not break the bank for CMIII, only a team friendly, back loaded deal with performance based incentives and also his willingness to play off ball. I don't really think Clay can cover anymore. He brings value as a savy vet playing off ball or blitzing, that is about it. I think the only way the claymaker is in green and gold next year if he just truly wants to be and finish a packer on a very team friendly deal, that just isn't happening.

Clay does bring more value than Oren Burks or Lane Taylor based on contract. I would not have an issue releasing Lane Taylor and signing Clay.

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:20 pm

I think that's about the only way he's back. It would have to be a short-term and team friendly deal. thanks for commenting.

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:37 pm

No. We need a long-term solution at ILB, and as you stated, we already have enough edge.

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:21 pm

He would be only a short-term solution if signed at this point in his career. The Packers may need a short-term solution especially if Kirkland can't stay healthy, but we shall see what happens. Thanks for the comment.

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 05:37 pm

That's why I'm hoping the Packers have a chance to draft K. Murray; he's fast, physical, an excellent character guy, and according to the local Ravens' pundits, one of the more NFL-ready of the ILB group. The Ravens, who are also looking for help in this area, are two spots ahead of us, so we'd probably have to vault over them to get that chance. Of course I'm not counting on it, but there's always hope....The Packers have been spinning their wheels at this position for the better part of a decade, and it's time to get it fixed.

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Fredrik87's picture

March 23, 2020 at 07:46 pm

I actually think Queen is a better ILB than Murray.
But in all honesty I'd like to see us take a OT or WR if one of the better ones slips, or trade down for extra picks.
And take one or more LB's in rounds 3-6

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splitpea1's picture

March 24, 2020 at 11:50 am

You may be right. I was attracted to Murray because he's a little bigger, supposedly has a great work ethic, and has a greater chance of being available when the Packers make their pick. I've seen him slated to go anywhere between the late teens and the early second round.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:34 pm

you can never really have enough edge

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:52 pm

Should there be an issue with either one of the Smiths, it'll be Gary's time to shine. He'll be given every opportunity to show what he can do--and let's hope it's worthy of his draft status.

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GilMartin's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:31 pm

Agreed that Gary is the next man up at edge. If he signs, Matthews would be Edge 4 at best.

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murf7777's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:58 pm

I agree, especially one who can play inside or out as needed. If low end cost he brings a lot of flexibility.

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GilMartin's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:22 pm

Agreed but the cost and length of contract both have to be low. Thanks for commenting.

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Tarynfor12's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:46 pm

Geez, some fans just can't stop hanging onto or bringing back already used and disposable products. It wasn't working then and it won't work now. Let it go...Let it go....let it go.

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:01 pm

I suspect that some fans will want him back even when his hair turns white.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

March 24, 2020 at 01:26 am

Crosby's hair is white. I was happy when the Packers resigned him.

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splitpea1's picture

March 24, 2020 at 12:00 pm

I hate to split hairs, but Crosby just has a little gray!

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GilMartin's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:22 pm

I don't think it's likely Matthews is back. I agree the Packers are probably better off looking forward. If Matthews returns, it's for a one year deal.

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Lare's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:43 pm

I wouldn't have a problem with bringing Matthews back to Green Bay.

As a coach.

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Tarynfor12's picture

March 23, 2020 at 05:31 pm

He either didn't or couldn't be a leader. Neither makes or represents coaching criteria.

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taarons420's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:00 pm

dumb

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wildbill's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:24 pm

I love Clay but he would have a very limited role if we brought him back. I see him following a Freeney/Suggs role with a team as a pass rushing specialist used primarily on passing downs. I wish him luck and hope he doesn’t end up in our division

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:35 pm

What would it take to bring him back? Lets start with #52

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GilMartin's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:29 pm

I think Gary would give it back to him...for a small price...IF Clay returns. Don't think it's going to happen, but we shall see. Thanks for commenting.

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cheesehead1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:44 pm

In one word, no.

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Thegravedigger's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:16 pm

The only reunion should be mike pennell.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 07:45 pm

hes gonna have a reunion.....with mccarthy

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mbpacker's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:23 pm

Clay was always one of my fav players. However, I'm in the camp to not bring him back or do a "Back to the Future" cameo. Think we should go younger with more over all skils at this point. If he would come back, of course, I would support him as before and hope there is another "it's time" moment.

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stockholder's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:41 pm

CM3 doesn't have to kiss anyones A__. He will get a contract here or someplace else. We need him. Whats so difficult about wanting a legend to come back home? If you thought the draft was a quick fix. Kirksey would never have been signed.

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Bearmeat's picture

March 23, 2020 at 06:49 pm

No no no no no no no. Moving on. Thank for the memories, Clay, but you're done.

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Lphill's picture

March 23, 2020 at 07:34 pm

For all you Clay haters he is ranked in the 80’s by pff and 29 out of 132 middle linebackers, he filled in great in the middle and had a few interceptions if you think he can’t help you are mistaken.

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mbpacker's picture

March 24, 2020 at 10:56 am

Just because I lean toward Clay not coming back doesn't mean I hate him. He is still one of my all-time fav Packers. I guess the fact that the Pack let him go without even an offer, and have YET to bring him back, Gute knows more than I about it. They look at it from many angles i'm sure. Yeah, he can still play, but overall it;s a young man's game. Go Clay, Go Pack!

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:05 pm

I think its funny how many of you are quick to call out Packers fans for "holding onto memories" or some variation of that sentence - and are usually some of the same ones that get excited about compensatory picks in the 2021 draft when Rodgers is another year older - like we have all the time in the world to be some kind of draft and develop team

Ted Thompson WASTED the prime years of Rodgers career after the SB win putting absolute TRASH out on the field, at a different position group year after year. And every year we sat around and said hey I like this kid Dezman Moses or, Nate Palmer could be the answer at ILB because TT knows better than all of us right? MD Jennings and Jerron Mcmillian will pick up right where Nick Collins left off, right?

People want Clay Matthews back because hes available and he can play football still. AND he can play ILB. I would take him over "hey this kid Bolton looked good before he tore his knee up in Canada in preaseason, or Oren Burks looked great in preseason 2 years ago before he got hurt and then got hurt again" right now.

The best defenses have capable players at ILB period end of story. Believe you me im rooting for Kirksey becsuse im a Packers fan and he was a very nice player before he missed almost 2 full years. But they cant just sign him and wait until round 4 or later to add to the position IF thats the plan. They just cant.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 24, 2020 at 09:57 am

Solid post.They need a fourth guy for the Edge, sign him. He can still rush the QB.

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GilMartin's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:26 pm

He would have to accept a position as a role player and as the fourth edge rusher on the depth chart. If he's willing to do that and take a reasonable one or two year deal, then maybe. Thanks for commenting.

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AKDan's picture

March 23, 2020 at 10:45 pm

I loved watching Clay sacking QBs, disrupting plays in the backfield, the mismatches he brought to the game and his intensity. I hated seeing him leave.

His last couple of years at Green Bay all those positives were offset by him not wrapping up and completing the tackle, taking himself out of plays and not having the speed to recover. His intensity never changed but his physical skills did deteriorate through the wear and tear of the NFL.

At this point does he bring enough to the plate to justify keeping someone else off the 46 man game roster? If yes, then who does he take playing time from, not the Smith brothers, Gary, Kirksey??

If he is added for only a limited situational player are his skills a true asset for this team? I'm thinking not, I think the team has obviously moved on with the addition of the Smith brothers (I know they are not really brothers).

I don't think CMIII comes back unless it is to retire as a Packer.

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GilMartin's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:24 pm

I think you're right. It is unlikely he returns but if he will, it will take the conditions I described to get it to happen. Matthews will go down in history as a great Packer. Right now, if he returns, he's a situational role player. Thanks for commenting.

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Tedlyflyfisher's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:46 pm

Are you drunk? Do you not remember how poorly he played in his last 2 seasons with us?

We are strapped for cash. I’m much more interested in bringing back “Swervin’ Ervin” than an over-the-hill Clay Matthews.

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stockholder's picture

March 24, 2020 at 11:19 am

I remember a couple when he was Martinez spot. Need him in Goodsons spot.

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GilMartin's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:27 pm

No, I'm not drunk, LOL and I don't think Clay is coming back. I don't think he'll accept the terms necessary to return to Green Bay because I think some other team will likely make him a better offer and offer him a bigger role. Would love to see Ervin return but again, only if the price is right. Thanks for commenting.

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MarkLee22's picture

March 25, 2020 at 07:16 am

What would it take to bring him back? How about a retirement ceremony? I loved Clay in his prime, but that was long ago. He's injury prone. Sure he was healthy enough to start 13 games last year, but did he finish 13 games? That was the issue in his later years in GB. How many games did he finish in the trainers room? It was a good career Clay, end it while you can still walk.

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stockholder's picture

March 25, 2020 at 07:35 am

Gute will spend to much (cap $$$ ) signing rejects now. IF I was CM3 I'd wait for the Packers to pay me for a retirement ceremony.

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