Ex-Packers Linebacker Sets Record Straight on Playing in 2020

Clay Matthews Packers

Getty Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.

Clay Matthews planning to sit out the 2020 NFL season? Not so fast.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday morning that a source told him the Denver Broncos had expressed interested in signing Matthews for the upcoming season but were told the former Green Bay Packers middle linebacker was “not going to play” in 2020, seemingly taking the six-time Pro Bowler off the free-agent market for the time being.

It took no time at all, though, for Matthews and his agent, Ryan Williams, to set the record straight about the 33-year-old linebacker’s interest in playing this year.

“We recently had communication with the Broncos, as we have with other teams during this offseason,” Williams wrote in a statement. “We were under the impression that communication would remain private, but since it did not, let me be clear: We were unable to come to an agreement with Denver, but Clay remains open to playing in the NFL in 2020, provided it’s the right opportunity for him and his family.”

The Broncos have been working to find a replacement for star pass rusher Von Miller, who suffered a “freak” ankle injury in practice this week and is feared to be lost for the season. Given the current free-agent market, Matthews seemed to be a logical candidate on short notice with more than a decade of strong play on his NFL resume.

Schefter later clarified his original tweet and said Matthews “wasn’t willing to play right now for what the Broncos offered” but “is still open to playing for the right opportunity.”

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Matthews, Rams Split Remains Unsettled

Matthews has been a free agent since the Los Angeles Rams released him on March 19, one year to the day from when he initially signed his two-year contract with the team in 2019. He tallied 37 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles over 13 games in his only season with the Rams, but they cut him loose to create $3.75 million in salary cap space for 2020.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Matthews filed a grievance against the Rams about a month later over the $2 million he claims the team owes him in unpaid guarantees. Both he and running back Todd Gurley — who the Rams released the same day — voiced frustrations about non-payments following their departures from L.A.’s roster.

Matthews’ grievance with the Rams could have been a reason why he and the Broncos were unable to reach an agreement, as Tom Pelissero of NFL Network noted any new contract he signs would offset the $2 million bonus he is seeking.

Would the Packers be Interested?

For good reason, Packers fans love Matthews, and some would love to see him back on the roster in 2020 to help them address their depth issues at inside linebacker.

While Matthews has spent most of his career on the outside, the Packers also got two solid seasons out of him at inside linebacker with both ending in Pro Bowl selections for him. He wouldn’t be an option to dethrone new defensive signal-caller Christian Kirksey, but his presence could offer a veteran safety net for a roster that includes second-year Ty Summers as its only other healthy inside linebacker.

The Packers will spend at least the first three weeks of the season without fifth-round rookie Kamal Martin, who was in the mix to be a starter before a torn meniscus landed him on injured reserve earlier this week. Oren Burks, a 2018 third-round pick, has also been limited in practice with a groin injury, per the team’s injury report.

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