This isn’t a new concept: A veteran returns to the team that drafted them for their final seasons. Clay Matthews re-signing with the Green Bay Packers would be a perfect example of this — and it would be great for the Pack.
Look at players like Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers. Both played in Green Bay for the second part of their careers. Once their veteran contracts were a bit too pricey and younger players were ready for a chance, they returned home.
Woodson played in Green Bay from 2006-12 and spent the last three years of his career back with the Oakland Raiders. Peppers suited up for the Packers from 2014-16, then returned to the Carolina Panthers until 2018. In 2019, he was hired as a special assistant of business operations in Carolina.
What Packers fan doesn’t know Tramon Williams? He returned to Green Bay just this past year as possible secondary help. He probably should have played more in the NFC Championship game.
There is a good chance Preston Smith will be released for salary cap reasons. Green Bay could re-sign him at a lower price, but it’s not likely.
Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary are locks at the outside edge positions. Two second-year players, Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin, will be on the inside. Green Bay will need to draft some players and bring in a few others on a veteran-minimum contract for added depth. They will not be able to go out and sign a higher-priced free-agent linebacker for financial reasons. Matthews would fit that mold perfectly.
Clay Matthews Post-Packers
Matthews’ last full season was on the 2019 Los Angeles Rams. He had signed a two-year contract and suffered a broken jaw in Week 5 but only missed three games. He played in the rest of the 13 regular-season contests.
The L.A. native ended with 33 tackles and eight sacks, his highest season total since 2014, but he was released in March of 2020.
Matthews did not play for a team during the 2020 season, which was extremely surprising. There was plenty of teams that needed a solid linebacker and a six-time Pro Bowler, All-Pro, and Super Bowl Champion. Here is an example that sums it up nicely, which was liked by Clay himself on Twitter:
Why Clay Makes Sense
With other draft priorities, the Packers probably won’t be picking an edge linebacker this year. They need depth at offensive line, cornerback, inside linebacker, wide receiver, and potentially running back.
They have 10 picks, but with potential trades, they will probably wind up with around six or seven. That means the Packers will need to sign some veterans. They also don’t have a lot of money to spend.
Matthews deserves another contract, but the fact he was not signed in 2020 also helps the Packers. They could bring him back on a veteran minimum and offer plenty in incentives.
He would be an ideal player to come in for special packages and when Smith or Gary need a breather. He would return to Lambeau Field, where he is still beloved. Matthews could come in fresh and rush the quarterback without the pressure of being the player who absolutely must make something happen.
There is a definite chance that Matthews signs another two-year deal with a team with a lot more cap space. But if he wants to play with a contender and no one comes calling right away, returning as a Packer would make the 2021 season that much better. The potential future Hall of Famer deserves another shot at contending and can still contribute. Let’s bring 52 home.