Clay Matthews 'taken aback' at Packers' lack of interest: 'They told me there was no room for me'

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor


Clay Matthews always imagined he’d play out his career with the Green Bay Packers. Even though he was set to hit free agency for the first time, it was his expectation to stay in green and gold.

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That made the Packers’ lack of interest all the more painful when the only team he’s ever played for declined to make him an offer.

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“I was kind of taken aback because I thought I’d always be back there, whether it was at a cheaper price [or not],” Matthews said in an interview with NFL.com’s Michael Silver. “So that was kind of a shock, because [my family] stayed out there and had our third child in the offseason, and I was hanging in town training there and everything. And yeah, that was kind of a surprise to me because I just figured I would be out there a few more years.”

Clay Matthews signed a two-year deal with the Rams after spending 10 seasons with the Packers. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Clay Matthews signed a two-year deal with the Rams after spending 10 seasons with the Packers. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

Matthews was willing to take a discount

The 10-year veteran was coming off a solid year with 7.5 sacks, 43 total tackles and one forced fumble. He knew he wouldn't command the $13 million annual salary he had on his last contract, but he never pictured that they wouldn’t want him back at any price.

Matthews said that there was some discussion between his agent, Ryan Williams, and Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst before free agency started. They mutually agreed that he could figure out his value on the open market, and hopefully something would be worked out later.

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But days later, Matthews said he got a call from Gutekunst saying that there was no money available for him.

“I always felt like I would probably end up back there; we just needed to figure out what the going rate was. But that wasn't the case,” Matthews said. “They told me there was no room for me.”

Packers were quick to replace Matthews

That call particularly stings because the Packers did have money to spend — just not on him. They made a rare splurge in free agency with outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (four years, $66 million with $20 million guaranteed) and Preston Smith (four years, $52 million with $16 million guaranteed).

Matthews eventually worked out a two-year, $9.25 million deal with his hometown Los Angeles Rams that can reach as high as $16.75 million, but he made one last effort to return to Wisconsin. He said he reached out to to Gutekunst to see if he would take the same deal, but the GM again declined.

Matthews already felt bad enough that his team didn’t want him anymore, but then there was an added layer of disrespect when the Packers immediately gave away his No. 52 jersey to rookie first-rounder Rashan Gary.

“You just sometimes wish they would be a little more honest and up front as far as how they see it,” Matthews said. “But, I mean, why should I get preferential treatment? Nobody is going to say, ‘Hey, this is how we actually feel about you.’”

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