Our series on elephants in the room winds down to look at the second largest issue the Packers face this offseason, the Clay Matthews contract. Unlike many of these other issues the problem is clear and the solution is easy. Matthews is a star in this league and one of the best pass rushers. He is essential to the Packers’ defense and one of the key faces of the franchise. It’s time to pay the man.
What Is The Problem?
Clay Matthews has earned a big payday and that time has come. He has one year left on his contract, which is the normal time for a franchise to give a player a long term extension. There are only two real problems in this analysis: 1) determining Matthews’ actual worth (should he command DeMarcus Ware money or Mario Williams money?) and 2) how to fit Matthews’ cap hit into the overall view of the Packers long term salary structure.
How Did We Get Here?
Ted Thompson made a big trade when he saw a player he really liked slipping in the draft. Since then Matthews has been a legitimate contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year (placing third) and Defensive MVP (placing second in 2010). He has also put up double digit sacks in three of his first four years. In short he has earned his money.
During this same time Matthews has also developed some nagging hamstring injuries. These hamstring injuries caused him to miss three starts as a rookie, and cost him six games since (one game in 2010 and 2011 and four games in 2012).
How Are The Packers Reacting?
They have not backed up the Brinks truck yet, but I swear you can see them warming it up in the Lambeau parking lot. Seriously, the Packers have made cap space with the cutting of Charles Woodson this past offseason. They know it’s time to pay Matthews and solidify him as part of the long term plan of the organization.
The cutting of Charles Woodson may also up the ante in a different way for Matthews and the Packers. Many of us remember that classic scene in the 2010 Packers Championship video where Kevin Greene gives Matthews a pep talk late in the fourth quarter. In this scene Greene points out that this is the moment when superstars step up and make something happen, that Wood was gone, and now was the time for Matthews to step up and make a play. Matthews then promptly went out on to the field and forced a fumble sealing the game for the Packers. Just like in that moment, Woodson is gone. There is a vacuum of leadership that needs to be filled, and it’s time for Matthews to step up into that role. He has the ability and personality to grow into this position on the team. It is time….but first it is just time to pay him.