December of 2018 is one of those months in Green Bay Packers history most fans would rather forget.
After a horrendous loss to the Arizona Cardinals on December 2 the Packers fired coach Mike McCarthy. The first time I can remember the organization firing a coach in-season. The 2018 campaign mercifully came to an end after an equally horrendous shutout loss to the Lions at home. As Packers fans left Lambeau for the final time they braced for the most off-season change they’ve seen in 14 years.
What fans didn’t know was that 2019 would be just as surprising as 2018 was disappointing. They didn’t know the Packers would hire a smart, young, offensive minded head coach. They didn’t know the defense would be totally retooled through free agency. They didn’t know Rodgers would prove he has a few more years left in the tank. And they didn’t know the future of their polarizing linebacker, Clay Matthews.
In the end the Packers choose to move on from Matthews. He went “home” to LA. A move I was in favor of. I will always appreciate Clay as one of the best linebackers in Packers history. Without his contributions, there is no Super Bowl XLV championship. But he had lost a step, it was time to move on and they needed the cap space.
It appears that he was more surprised by the move than most fans. In an interview with NFL.com at Rams training camp Matthews said “I was kind of taken aback because I thought I’d always be back there, whether it was at a cheaper price or not. So that was kind of a shock, because [my family] stayed out there and had our third child in the offseason, and I was hanging in town training there and everything.”
After a mildly productive season (13 games, 25 tackles, 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) Matthews is now back on the free-agent market. And the rumor mill is a swirling. Could the Packers actually bring Clay back?
As a fan, I really like the move, under a few conditions.
- The deal is team friendly. I’m thinking one-year vet minimum, which would be $1.3 million for players with 10 or more seasons.
- He plays inside linebacker.
I don’t have any information or sources to know if this would be something either side would consider. There seems to be twitter chatter that the Packers have shown interest, but I’ve found nothing to be entirely credible.
What I do know is that Mike Pettine could use all the tools he can get to help with the inside linebacker depth this season. The Packers made a minor splash in free agency signing Christian Kirksey from the Browns. But Kirksey has a lot to prove after two injury plagued seasons. After losing Blake Martinez and BJ Goodson, the Packers are left with their free agent addition and Oren Burks, Ty Summers and Curtis Bolton…uh oh.
I also know that in 2014 and 2015 he was productive in the ILB spot. In the second half of the 2014 season, Matthews racked up 8.5 sacks and 30 tackles after being moved inside by defensive coordinator Dom Capers. It may not be his preference to play inside but, if he wants to keep playing a few more years (which he claims to) and come back to Gren Bay, it may be his only option.
Some will say, “Uh, Nick, there’s talent in this draft at ILB, they could get someone there.” I see other needs like tackle, wideout and defensive line taking priority in early rounds. Plus, we have no idea what this offseason is going to look like. Will the rookie draft picks get a full off-season? How prepared will they be when the season starts?
I’d love to see the Claymaker back in Green Bay to close his career. Do you?
P.S. Rashan Gary will make a little extra cash if Clay wants his number back.
——————Nick Meisner was baptized in a church of green and gold clad parishioners and grew up in the literal shadows of Lambeau Field. Needless to say, he has been a Packers fan for life. He writes for PackersTalk.com when his wife and two daughters are asleep and with a Miller Lite within arms reach. You can follow Nick on twitter at @nicmeis.