Green Bay Packers Defensive Deep Dive: Clay Matthews

Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws against Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) during the second quarter in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws against Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) during the second quarter in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers Defensive Deep Dive will be a look at each of the players on defense who played for any length of time during this season.

First up on the list is Clay Matthews.

He’s under contract with the Packers through the 2018 season. In 2019, he’ll become a free agent. But until then, there’s much to discuss about his time left with the team.

This season, Matthews played in 15 games, which includes the post-season run. Having missed four games, he’s someone to keep an eye on as injuries could become even more of an issue. Aside from the four games missed, he was also a non-factor in week 13 against Houston and again in week 15 against Chicago.

In both games he recorded zero sacks, tackles, and assists. Now stats don’t always tell the entire story, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t cause for concern.

Jan 8, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) chases a fumble with New York Giants running back Paul Perkins (28) during the second half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 8, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) chases a fumble with New York Giants running back Paul Perkins (28) during the second half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

His regular season stats had a great drop-off even when you factor in playing four fewer games. Last season he had 49 tackles to this season’s 20 along with 17 assists to 4. Sacks showed the least drop-off with 6.5 to 5. In each playoff game this season he had one tackle and one sack against the Giants. In last season’s two playoff games, he had 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Only so many things can be blamed on injury and I would say this drop-off is a cause for concern because not only has his play declined, but his contract will hit a $10.1 million guarantee for the 2017 season.

At this point, it’s hard to see how this amount is justified. Sure, that may seem harsh, but I’m trying to look at this practically as opposed to looking at it as a fan of the team.

If you look at his stats going back to 2009, this has been the worst year for Matthews. He has mostly been a go-to guy on defense. He can lead the team on that side of the ball and he still provides some value. With the number of young players on the defense right now, it’s crucial to have veteran leaders.

So will Matthews be worth that $10.1 million next season?

There’s a chance. His second worst year was in 2013. He only played in 11 games and he bounced back from that season with his 2014 and 2015 performances.

Verdict: Matthews had a down year, but can still provide value to the team. Injuries, as usual, will determine how well next season will go for him (and the team in general).

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