The apparent lack of interest by the Green Bay Packers’ front office in adding a veteran edge rusher to the team is a little surprising. Could it be that general manager Brian Gutekunst and his guys think the team is in pretty good shape at outside linebacker?
An injury-free Clay Matthews is still a quarterback’s nightmare. Starting with 2013, he’s missed five entire games, then had two full seasons, and then missed four games in 2016 and two more last year. His corresponding sack counts were 7.5, 11, 6.5, 5 and 8.5.
Since Clay’s reputation depends so much on his sack count, statistical appearances can be deceiving. Injuries have significantly skewed Matthews’ stats.
Fans have developed the attitude that it’s just a matter of time every season before Matthews gets injured. That doesn’t mean he’s a softie, however. In 2016, his shoulder was so damaged he thought it might end his career. Instead of going on IR, however, he hung in there and played at much reduced ability. This is also the guy who fractured his thumb in 2013, came back in a cast and kept switching to smaller casts until he re-fractured his thumb. That’s taking one for the team.
His shoulder responded nicely in 2017, but he still had to deal with a groin ailment for much of the year and with a hamstring problem late in the season. His performance was subpar for most of the year, but when he had a decent stretch of health in December, his presence was again felt on the field. Matthews recorded five sacks and 16 tackles in the final four games of the year.
Clay’s given a lot back to this team. He works hard during the offseason on maintaining his strength and fitness. He once was arrogant and cocky, but now he’s self-deprecating. In fact, he has a good second career being a goof in commercials. He was once called “dirty” for some late hits early in his career, but I’ve seen no evidence of that for a good five years. Around the league, he is still feared and respected as a pass rusher – and is rated well by fellow players in those top 100 lists.
The guy is only 31 years old. I think he’s still got multiple years of double-digit sacks in him. Maybe that’s why Gutekunst, unlike many fans, hasn’t pushed the panic button on finding his replacement.