Packers’ Clay Matthews deserves new deal before Aaron Rodgers
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor
~Flash back four years to the lead-up to the 2009 NFL Draft. The Packers owned the #9 overall pick, and Dom Capers had just taken over and he needed bodies for the transition to his new 3-4 defense.
The team, and the fans, had expected Kansas City to select nose tackle B.J. Raji with the #3 overall pick, and many experts were penciling perfect “prototype” 3-4 DE Tyson Jackson from LSU to the Packers with that #9 pick.
Many Packer fans wanted the pass rush force at OLB, however. The highest-rated ones were Aaron Maybin from Penn St. Bryan Orakpo from Texas, Everette Brown from Florida State, and Larry English from Northern Illinois.
Well there was a surprise at #3 as the Chiefs selected their “prototype” DE in Tyson Jackson. That plummeted Raji down.
So at number nine, Dom Capers had his guy that he dreamed of to start his 3-4. Raji was seen as the rare big fella who could both anchor down the point of attack, and also beat a double-team and get pressure on the quarterback.
What Thompson didn’t expect was for both Raji, and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree to be available. Rumor has it that Thompson had Crabtree rated as his highest rated player on the board there.
But he gave Capers his guy and selected Raji.
Where Thompson made his most brilliant move as GM, to date still today, was trading back up into round one and getting the #26 pick from New England. He used that pick to select Matthews, who was considered by most to be a 2nd or even 3rd round prospect. Analysts were shocked that the Packers traded their 2nd and two 3rd round draft picks to the New England Patriots in order to secure Matthews as well as a 5th round selection.
Everette Brown was still available, and many Packer fans wanted him to be the guy chosen with that pick. Maybin, English, and Orakpo had already gone and given their pass rushes to Buffalo (#11), San Diego (#16), and Washington (#13). But Brown had a great highlight package of sacks and Packer fans were salivating over adding him to Raji.
Thompson shocked folks and took Matthews.
He immediately paid dividends. Matthews recorded 51 tackles, 10.0 sacks, 7 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and 3 fumble recoveries in his rookie season of 2009. He played in all 16 games, starting at ROLB in 13 of them. He led the Packers in sacks, QB Pressures, with 45.5. He finished 3rd for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, losing to his former USC teammate Brian Cushing. He was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and set the Packers record for most sacks in a season by rookie (10.0). Matthews was named to the Pro-Bowl, being the first Packer rookie to be named to the Pro-Bowl since James Lofton in 1978.
In 2010, his second season, he was even better. Matthews finished a close second (17 votes to 15) to Troy Polamalu in the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting, notable in that both led their defenses to Super Bowl XLV.
2010 Playoffs: Matthews set the Packer record for most sacks in a postseason (3.5). In the Super Bowl won by the Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he had 3 tackles, a pass deflection, and a game changing forced fumble.
On the first play of the 4th quarter with the Steelers driving to take the lead with the score 21-17 in favor of Green Bay and the ball on the Packer 33 yard line, he tackled Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, who fumbled the ball, recovered by Desmond Bishop.
The Packers never lost the lead, winning their 4th Super Bowl title and first since Super Bowl XXXI (1996 season), 31-25.
Prior to the 2012 NFL season, Sporting News listed Matthews as the 2nd best outside linebacker in the league, 2nd only to DeMarcus Ware.
Matthews started out the 2012 season with a bang. He recorded 3 tackles and 2.5 sacks against San Francisco in 30-22 loss and then posted a career high 3.5 sacks of Jay Cutler against the Bears on Thursday night.
Matthews is one of only 6 players in NFL history to record 6 sacks or more in the first two games of the season, and is the only player to do it twice.
Matthews missed some time later in the season with a hamstring problem, but he still finished with 13 sacks, a half-sack short of his career high from 2010.
None of this greatness is news to any football fan, especially Packer fans. But the point is that Matthews is still playing on that “bargain” rookie contract now entering his fifth NFL season.
His contract his up after this season. His original contract is a 5 yr/$13.1 million dollar deal. His base salary so far, after four years, has yet to hit $1 million in a year. His biggest cap hit was last year at 1.98 million. Full details here.
He hasn’t whined like Javon Walker.
He hasn’t threatened a holdout like Darrelle Revis did a few times, and like Sterling Sharpe did once.
He hasn’t held out like Chris Johnson and Eric Dickerson did so many times.
He’s just played. And played like a Hall of Famer. Quietly. Underpaid.
Remember the 2008 season, Aaron Rodgers entering his 4th NFL season but first as a starter with Favre jettisoned to the Jets.
The Packers gave Rodgers a new deal just a few months into his real career began, again in his 4th season.
Matthews has played a full four now and been the defenses clear MVP. Without Matthews, this defense would be atrocious.
He’s still only 26, and he has great bloodlines. His dad played 19 seasons in the NFL, also as a linebacker. And Clay’s uncle played 19 seasons as well, playing in an NFL-record 14 straight Pro-Bowls.
So you have a phenomenal player, who has been consistent, and professional, has great bloodlines, and hasn’t said a word in public about out-performing his contract, and he has just one year left on it. Rodgers still has two years left on his contract (his second contract already).
And did I mention the hair?