The Green Bay Packers have had some legendary players over the years, but one of the team’s most iconic defenders over the last couple of decades has announced that he’s hung up his cleats.
Speaking with The Packers Wire writer Brandon Carwile, legendary Packers linebacker Clay Matthews confirmed that he has “unofficially” retired. While he has yet to have a formal announcement, Matthews said to Carwile, “my playing days are over.”
This was the third NFL season where the 36-year-old hadn’t been signed on with a team, so the announcement had been long overdue. Regardless, it’s a huge moment for the legendary pass rusher who will be fighting for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Packers have yet to announce if they will sign Matthews to a one-day contract to retire with the franchise.
Is Clay Matthews a Hall of Famer?
It’s been a while since he was at his peak, but when he was playing at his best, Matthews looked every bit like a Hall of Fame pass rusher.
Primarily a special teamer for the USC Trojans, Matthews wasn’t selected until the end of the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. The Packers saw something in Matthews, however, trading significant assets to the New England Patriots to move up to the 26th overall pick and take Matthews.
That move paid off almost immediately for the Packers. As a rookie, Matthews set a Packers rookie record with 10 sacks, also racking up seven pass deflections and three fumble recoveries. He took an even bigger step forward in his second season, racking up a career-high 13.5 sacks followed by 3.5 sacks in the playoffs on the way to helping lead the Packers to a Super Bowl title. His signature play of the year came on a crucial forced fumble in that Super Bowl.
Over the course of his career, Matthews was one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league. In 10 NFL seasons with the Packers and one with Los Angeles Rams, Matthews finished with 91.5 sacks, 519 combined tackles, 43 pass deflections, six interceptions, and 17 forced fumbles. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, a second-team All-Pro in 2012, and a first-team All-Pro in 2010.
With his long hair and electric play style, Matthews became a signature player around the NFL. His stardom even took to the big screen when he made a cameo appearance, along with several Packers teammates, in the movie Pitch Perfect 2.
Can Rashan Gary Become the Next Great Packers Pass Rusher?
The Packers had been waiting for another generational pass rusher to live up to the role that Matthews played in Green Bay. While Za’Darius Smith appeared to be that player shortly after signing with the team, his time in Green Bay quickly fizzled out.
Rashan Gary is now the player Packers fans are hoping can become the next generational pass rusher. Originally labeled a bust after being drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2019 draft, Gary has quickly developed into a premier pass rush specialist.
Gary racked up a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2021 in his third NFL season, and he’s off to an even stronger start this year. Through three games in 2022, Gary has already picked up three sacks, pacing to shatter his previous career high.
If the 24-year-old can continue to develop, he could become one of the most fearsome defensive players in the league over the next few years.