Holding off on the Clay Matthews re-signing


Clay Matthews, pictured here with Desmond Bishop, is due a huge payday, but is the time right?

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

I was blown away today by the John Rehor’s post that takes an intriguing look at Clay Matthews, his importance to the Green Bay Packers and the reasons why team officials should not rush into re-signing their best defensive player.

Rehor comes clean – he’s a huge Clay Matthews fan. He understands that there isn’t a defensive player on the team who has contributed more since being drafted.

“A four time pro bowl selection, Matthews already has an impressive resume,” Rehor writes. “Third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2009, second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2010, 42.5 sacks, good for fifth all time in Packers history, along with regularly making quarterback’s lives miserable, he is by far the best player on the Packers defense.”

Matthews prepares for 2013 making a mere $3.7 million – a veritable steal for not only the best player on the team but one of the top defensive players in all the league. He enters the season as one of three Packers who have been mentioned as top signing priorities. In addition to Aaron Rodgers and B.J. Raji, Matthews’ contract is primed for extension. And he’s due a big payday.

However, there is the downside to all this. Over the past three years, Matthews has been plagued by bad hamstrings, injuries that have kept him out of preseason action in 2009 and 2010. He missed one game in 2010 and four games this past season. Rehor points out that it has been an issue during Matthews’ early years and what’s to prevent it from continuing to be an issue?

“If it has been an issue since he was 23, will it still be an issue when he is 30? 31?” Rehor asks.

In addition to the fact that Matthews has been affected by injury, Rehor says that Matthews’ success has come because he is the perfect player for the 3-4 defense, but what would happen if the Packers decided to move to a hybrid defense or go to a pure 4.-3?

If you remember, this is the defense that was gashed for monumental offensive outputs the past two seasons. The defense was the worst in the league in 2011 and though the unit played much better overall last season, there were performances by Adrian Peterson and Colin Kaepernick that exposed major weaknesses in the Packers’ scheme.

Clay Matthews

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, this wasn’t the fault of Clay Matthews, but it could be endemic to the entire scheme as designed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers. If the team continues its defensive meltdown into 2013 and Capers hits the road, what then?

We hope that we don’t have to answer that question. But what if the Packers move ahead with signing Matthews this year instead of waiting until after the 2013 season and the defensive scheme is altered?

Rehor says it best:

"Let’s speculate for just a moment: the Packers sign Clay Matthews to a long-term deal, the team fails to win the Super Bowl, and Dom Capers is fired. It is possible that McCarthy hires another 3-4 Defensive Coordinator (he has said he likes the aggressive nature of the 3-4), or they begin a switch to a hybrid or back to the 4-3. While I personally think this may not seem impossible with current personnel, the contract he is going to sign is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, somewhere in the $12-15 million range. Is paying him that much to play a 4-3 OLB a smart decision? Could he even play with his hand on the ground and still be productive making that kind of salary? It is all speculative at this point, but it is something that Ted Thompson has to consider."

Clay Matthews

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Strong words with the bottom line being that the Packers need to consider if and when they extend the contract for Clay Matthews. While we all think that Matthews is an incredible talent who would be a crucial element in bringing another Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay, Packers officials also have to be realistic and re-sign players when the time is right.

Rehor says that the time might not be right just yet.

I agree.

Give this some time and let things play out before pulling the trigger on a deal.

Again, I’ll let Rehor sum up the reasons:

“… ongoing issues with his hamstrings and potential question marks regarding the scheme the Packers operate might make Ted delay his signing just a bit. Perhaps he should wait until late in the 2013 season to resign Matthews, until some of the uncertainty is gone, before making such a large financial investment in one of the cornerstones of the current Packers roster.”

John Rehor is a  staff writer at PackersTalk.com and co-host of Cheesehead Radio. To contact John follow him on Twitter @jrehor or email johnrehor@yahoo.com