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Thoughts on Clay Matthews’ Extension With The Packers

Earlier today, Clay Matthews signed a five-year contract extension worth $66 million. Already due to make $3.7 million this year, he’s signed for a total of $69.7 million through 2018. Adam Schefter reports that about $31 million is guaranteed while Darren Rovell tweets that Matthews will make $22 million this season and a total of $27 million over the next 12 months.

Ultimately, the Packers are rewarding Matthews for good behavior by finalizing this deal now. With Charles Woodson gone, the team is paying a premium for Clay to be an outspoken leader. With one year left on his current deal and the franchise tag somewhere near this year’s linebacker total of $9.6 million, the Packers would be on the hook for just over $13 million over two years. (After that, they’d really risk losing him.)

As with all high profile NFL contracts, however, the announced terms aren’t exactly real. We’ll find more about the specific structure of the deal in a couple days, but I’d bet against his actually completing all six years before restructure or release. At this point, we know that the Packers are paying big for the next three seasons. As such, they probably have little risk beyond that. If Matthews stays healthy and performs at an elite level, he’ll be around longer. If not, he won’t. Seems fair. In Ted I trust.

It’s worth reiterating that health is a major factor for how long this deal actually lasts. Matthews missed four games this past year with a hamstring injury. Though he only missed one game in each of the previous two seasons before that, nagging injuries have now had an impact on his late-season for performance for three years in a row. In 2011, he had just six sacks in the entire season. In both 2010 and 2012, he had six sacks total after two games, but finished the years with 13.5 and 13, respectively. (He would, however, rebound in those two seasons’ playoffs with 6.5 sacks in six total games.)

Admittedly, part of the issue the past two years has been double, and sometimes triple, teams. The Packers have still not yet found a consistent pass rush threat to replace Cullen Jenkins. This has enabled opposing offenses to key in on stopping Matthews. Hopefully, Nick Perry or someone(s) from this upcoming draft class will step up to provide help.

More than anything, I’m happy for Matthews. He’s truly been a model citizen. He gives 110% on every play; you’re never cheated by his effort. When he makes big plays, it energizes the entire team–they’re infectious.

It’s not going to be September for a little while, but I want it to be. Go Pack Go.

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