Predicting Where Clay Matthews Will Sign for 2020
The first wave of the 2020 NFL free agency period has come and gone. At this point, all 32 NFL teams are really just focused on the draft, and it may be some time before they dip their toes back into those free agency waters.
There are still several solid NFL free agents available that can help some franchises out, however. One could be Clay Matthews, who is 34 but remains plenty athletic and could help boost the right team’s pass rush.
Matthews spent almost all of his career as a member of the Green Bay Packers before playing for the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. Could a return to Green Bay in order, or is there a better fit for the veteran linebacker out on the open market?
Let’s take a look at Clay Matthews’ potential suitors and predict where he might play in 2020.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay lost Kyler Fackrell in free agency, so if an aging Matthews doesn’t mind a small rotational role on the edge, his presence could serve a purpose as pure depth.
Secondly, and perhaps more realistically, Green Bay can fill up their second inside linebacker slot with Matthews, who performed well in that role several years ago.
Still athletic with ability in coverage, Matthews could potentially return to the team that drafted him and help them fill a huge need.
The Texans largely hang their hat up front on J.J. Watt, but they keep losing him to injury and just traded away Jadeveon Clowney last year.
Houston also ranked 26th in sacks in 2019, so you know they could use a little extra juice in that department. Bill O’Brien is making oddball moves left and right, so adding a 34-year-old blitz-happy linebacker is only fitting.
New England Patriots
If anyone can get the most out of an aging Clay Matthews, it has to be Bill Belichick. Matthews doesn’t really fit their base defense perfectly, but New England tends to have a hybrid system that puts their players in the best position to succeed.
Matthews has proven over time that he can line up all over the place, too, so the point here is a great defense adds a veteran pass rusher. It feels like a great fit on paper, and even with the departure of Tom Brady, it’s possible the Patriots can still compete for Super Bowl 55.
New York Giants
There are several other teams that badly need pass rushing assistance, but I’ll stop at the G-Men, seeing as Matthews would fit their 3-4 scheme.
New York not only ranked just 22nd in sacks last year, but they lost their best pass rusher in Markus Golden. The Giants need some extra help on the edge, and Matthews could come cheaply if he doesn’t get a ton of interest.
Which Team Will Sign Clay Matthews?
Matthews went home to California to play for the Rams last year, and they booted him after one year. Why? Because he was expensive but also because he started hot and finished poorly.
Matthews can still generate pressure, but he only knows one speed and loses his effectiveness over time. He either needs to change positions or accept a smaller role that can take advantage of his strengths.
Going back to Green Bay, I think either of those options can come to fruition. Green Bay has a need for help on the inside at linebacker, and Matthews thrived there in the past. They also could use his athleticism on the edge, assuming it’s in a smaller role and at a vastly cheaper price.
The reality is Matthews can’t get the money he’s used to, nor will every team want to hand him an every-down role. Going back to the Packers makes sense for Matthews, and his versatility may make it a decision that benefits both parties.