Ex-Rams LB Clay Matthews Fuels Rumors of Possible Packers Return

Clay Matthews Packers Rumors

Getty Outside linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers looks on in warmups before playing the Washington Redskins during a preseason game at FedExField on August 19, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

With a few tweets, Clay Matthews helped feed a contingent of Packers fans who have been holding out hope he would find his way back to Green Bay in free agency this year.

The veteran linebacker, who spent nine seasons with the Packers, offered up his resume Monday afternoon on Twitter after the NFL announced its 2010s All-Decade Team, which could be taken as a response to being snubbed from a list that included former teammate Aaron Rodgers.

Matthews noted his status as a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro selection in addition to being crowned NFC Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl champion during the same 2010 season for the Packers, all factors that could convince any number of free-agent suitors to pursue him this offseason. But it was his mention of his two seasons playing at inside linebacker that seemed to appeal directly to the Packers and their current roster needs.

The Packers entered the offseason looking for upgrades at inside linebacker, but it would be difficult to say for certain whether they are in a better place just a few weeks ahead of the 2020 NFL draft. As general manager Brian Gutekunst addressed prior to free agency, there wasn’t enough cap space for Green Bay to go on another spending spree, and it resulted in more departures than additions.

The Packers allowed former starter Blake Martinez to walk with the New York Giants on a deal worth $10 million per season and opted for a much more affordable deal with Christian Kirksey, who comes with a cap hit that is less than half of what the Giants will take on with Martinez. The Packers also lost depth pieces with linebackers B.J. Goodson and Kyler Fackrell both departing in free agency.

If he can stay healthy, Kirksey has the potential to be a viable solution for the Packers on the inside, but his injury history — missing 23 games total in his past two seasons — underscores the team’s need for quality linebackers to stack behind him. Does that mean Matthews could be the answer?

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Problems With Clay Matthews-Packers Reunion

On paper, Matthews’ availability and ties to Green Bay seem to make him an ideal candidate to supplement the Packers’ linebacker corps next season, but there are some obvious problems with the potential reunion.

For starters, the Packers don’t really have the money. According to CPA Ken Ingalls, the Packers are about $11 million under the salary cap but are also currently estimated to finish about $1.65 million in the negative in terms of spendable cap space after calculating for other offseason expenditures, such as signing draft picks and members of the practice squad.

The Packers could potentially free up more space with roster cuts or contract restructuring, which includes signing extensions with 2021 free agents in ways that benefit the current cap. But even if they did want to make another grab in free agency, there is no reason to believe they would want Matthews at this point.

Don’t forget: Matthews wanted to stay with the Packers during last year’s offseason when he first entered free agency. He was reportedly even interested in taking a discount to finish out his career in Green Bay, but Gutekunst didn’t budge — which is understandable when you consider he brought in Za’Darius and Preston Smith to overhaul the outside linebacker position.

Maybe there was some consideration given to moving him to the inside back then, but the Packers also had Martinez in place for another season with some developmental talent behind him. The greater need now could warrant a second look, especially if his interests still lie with finishing what he started in Green Bay. That said, the Packers would have to really see something they liked about his game on the inside to consider juggling on the variables that come with bringing him back.

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