How Long Should The Packers Be Patient With Clay Matthews?

The Packers hope Clay Matthews' injury problems are behind him. They may have to start asking tough questions if not.

Let me start by saying Clay Matthews is one of my top-five favorite Packers in my lifetime. I am not here to argue that the Packers should move on from him. I am, however, saying it’s time to consider him in the “prove it” category.

There is a lot of talk about giving Datone Jones a “prove it” contract. Nick Perry is about to get paid (hopefully by the Packers) for having a big year on a “prove it” contract. Perhaps Eddie Lacy will get something similar. The Packers regularly issue proverbial ultimatums to players.

I am glad the Packers are more patient than a lot of teams in the NFL, but this league is still about what you have done lately.

Clay Matthews has been on a steady decline the last several years. Injuries can explain a lot, but being injured more often is indicative of a player in decline. Perhaps Matthews will see healthier days, perhaps not.

In 2012, Matthews' player grade on Pro Football Focus was an 89.3. In 2016 it was 43.6, making him the 96th ranked edge defender for the year.

Aside from a brief boost in performance in 2014, Matthews has not been a top-flight performer for an entire season since 2012.

The Packers could move Matthews back to the inside. This of course would assume they bring back at least one, if not two, of the free agent outside linebackers and draft another. The issue in this situation is that they would also need to restructure Matthews'contract. He should not be paid as an elite outside pass rusher if he plays inside.

In order for Matthews to continue to play outside, he has to rise back to his 2011 or 2012 level of performance.

If Matthews moves inside or if his performance outside does not dramatically improve, the Packers must have a difficult conversation asking Matthews to take a pay cut, or consider finding his replacement.

The Packers’ style and history would indicate they are likely to be patient for at least one more season.

I’m not sure how long the Packers should be patient before seeking a restructured contract or even moving on from Matthews. However, in order for the Packers to improve as much as we all hope on defense, Matthews or someone else will have to serve as a top-notch outside linebacker. The 3-4 defense requires it. Currently, Matthews is being paid to be that guy and the Packers are not getting a return on that investment.

If Matthews is a player the Packers can continue to build around, he needs to prove it once again.

Where would you personally draw the line? Are you worried about Clay Matthews, or do you feel his string of injury-riddled seasons could be in his rearview mirror?

How long should the Packers wait?

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Comments (52)

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Duginske's picture

February 28, 2017 at 04:25 pm

The Packers should move on now. Clay is not worth $15M anymore. His $4M in dead money is worth moving on to save $11M. However, they will probably wait one more year because there is no guaranteed money for 2018.

Packer fans are loyal and will want to keep him because of his name recognition. He just isn't the player he use to be.

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Bert's picture

February 28, 2017 at 04:51 pm

I kind of agree. I'd like to move on because I think Clay is in a decline and probably will never be the player we saw earlier. Also he is not even close to being a $15M/year player. Problem is, we have nothing behind him right now as a replacement. Peppers is out of gas, Perry could move on and the others are pretty ho-hum. I think our CB and LB situations and options just aren't very good right now.

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dobber's picture

February 28, 2017 at 06:38 pm

"Problem is, we have nothing behind him right now as a replacement. Peppers is out of gas, Perry could move on and the others are pretty ho-hum. I think our CB and LB situations and options just aren't very good right now."

You hit the nail on the head, Bert.

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packerbackerjim's picture

February 28, 2017 at 05:08 pm

To me it is quite obvious CM3 needs to move inside as he can longer challenge and defeat an OL mano a mano. Drop in coverage or shooting the gap is where he will be most effective. No need to make a roster decision on him this year.

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Savage57's picture

March 01, 2017 at 08:27 am

I agree the Packers should just suck it up this year on Matthews and see what he does, outrageous price be damned. But unless he puts up close to DPOY numbers this season, AMF, because he's getting paid like one.

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akeemthedream's picture

February 28, 2017 at 05:24 pm

Clay Matthews' decline is the cause of the Packers' recent defensive ineptitude.

They have no choice but to keep him, though.
He's better than Fackrell.
There is no one else.

It might behoove the Packers to purge.
There are too many holes to fill right now.
2017 doesn't look overly promising.
Let Perry and Matthews go.
Draft two edge rushers.
Start over.

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Bert's picture

February 28, 2017 at 06:31 pm

I would do just the opposite. Keep Clay and Perry, sign a couple FAs and go "all in" for 2017. Rodgers isn't getting any younger either and I recommend "making hay while the sun shines". As George Allen said "The future is now".

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Samson's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:11 pm

"The future has been now" for the last 6 seasons. -- Most of TT's decisions during this off season will be the same as always. -- He's thinking about next year and the year after - not this season. -- TT is the problem.

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akeemthedream's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:31 pm

"making hay while the sun shines"

I'm not sure the sun is exactly shining.
Not when you have to sign your overweight/injured RB because you have no other option, keep your criminally overpaid OLB because you have no other option, re-sign your injured - going on 30 RG because you have no other option, spend your first round pick on defense AGAIN because you have no other option, and hope that you can re-sign your 31 year old TE because YOU HAVE NO OTHER OPTION.

TT just keeps cornering himself.
His only leverage is "fine, we'll just go younger".

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Turophile's picture

March 01, 2017 at 04:05 am

Look out the window, akeemthedream. It's raining, isn't it. It's always raining in your world. Leaving your umbrella at home and then complaining because your hair is wet, is just punishing yourself.

There are some sunny periods, really there are, if you look for them.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

March 01, 2017 at 07:52 am

Actually, every one of Akeem's statements were true.

Jus' sayin'.

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marpag1's picture

March 01, 2017 at 08:15 am

So you honestly believe that there are "no other options?" Really?

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TheVOR's picture

February 28, 2017 at 05:41 pm

Clay Mathews is a decent FB player, and he's one of the very few "stars" on the defensive roster. I'd rather they consider renegotiating his contract first, especially if the plan is for him to move inside. He's been unhealthy the last 2 years. It wouldn't even surprise me to see him released, but I certainly would look at a renegotiation before a release of this player. 15M is a huge cap hit, and 4.xM in dead cap isn't terrible to recover 11-ish M of cap space. This would in fact make good sense if GB actually used UFA, which they seldom do. This roster has been deteriorating to a point where the draft can't possibly "Fix All The Issues", and releasing Mathews just doesn't seem like an option for a team with a below average DL, OLB, and even ILB and CB situation. Perhaps the only meaningful position on defense currently is Safety. Brutal! This team is a long ways off without using UFA. JMO..

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Ryan Graham's picture

February 28, 2017 at 05:57 pm

^^^^^ this guy ^^^^ I'd give some credit to Mike Daniels and the rest of the D line though. Potential for a top tier run defense

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 28, 2017 at 06:09 pm

" Potential for a top tier run defense."
That's great....as long no team passes.....ever.

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porupack's picture

March 01, 2017 at 04:23 am

Cheer up TheVOR, the D is about 3 players from a turnaround.
Bring one new FA vet at CB, one vet FA at ILB, and one high draftee at EDGE, it could be a very strong unit....including move CMIII back to ILB if draftee produces. That...and at least one of last years' draftees (Fackrell, Martinez, Randall, Rollins) making a reasonably strong jump. I hope TT doubles down with 2 edge draftees in round 1-4.

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Ryan Graham's picture

February 28, 2017 at 06:23 pm

Clay is officially an older guy on the team. One of the few who saw the Super Bowl roster in 2010-11 season. He's been hurt a lot, but I don't question his toughness. I don't question his character since Dom has asked him to things he's unfamiliar with for the benefit of the team. His production has declined and he's a huge paycheck issued on the team. A lot of similarities can be drawn from Clay's current standing with the team and Cobbs current standing as well...except 1 key thing. Leverage.

It's clear that, like Matthews, Cobbs overpaid for his overwhelmingly declined production. I've been hearing a lot of this rhetoric lately when it comes to these two - "would the team be better without them?" I hate this question. Because naturally for every action there needs to be reaction. And by that I don't mean someone MUST be picked up in draft or free agency, but if you don't have the answer on the current roster then yeah one of those options tend to be the answer.

So when I hear that question what I ask myself is "how does that production get replaced with equivalent to more production?" When I think about Cobb, my answers are Cook is resigned, and what contribution Cobb made is spread between Adams, Cook, Jordy and Ty in the slot or wing on occasion. Not to mention if Allison were to have a second year jump, which it looked as though he was building quite the chemistry with Rodgers, that immediately puts Cobb on the hotseat, especially since he can only primarily be productive from the slot. If I were GM, I may even be looking at opportunities today to trade Cobb and the 5th Rd comp pick to someone in need of a wideout i.e Bills for the 10th pick. Something of that nature (Lattimore or Humphrey picked with Watt, Charles Harris or Mickinley at 29 to kick off the draft, I'll eat that up).

Considering Matthews and replacing him? Whats the answer? Not Peppers he's too old on a snap count. Datone Jones is playing from a 3 pt more often than not. Perry just had his first solidly productive season, on a prove it contract. Not to mention these are all free agents. You want Fackrell or even Reggie Gilbert from the practice squad to develop overnight?? My point is they don't have the answer on the roster, which means they have no leverage to even ask Matthews to take a pay cut in reality. They are just counting on high character and desire to win to come from Matthews. So the ball is in his court to either ask for a paycut so they can find an answer, or step it up and play to the value of 15 million this season

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Samson's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:18 pm

Actually, they have a lot of leverage. -- There is no team in the NFL that would offer a contract to CM3 at even half his current salary. --- If CM3 doesn't want to take a pay cut (say 50%), then let him go. -- He would have to listen.

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Ryan Graham's picture

February 28, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Sure, that's true. What's also true is you continue to set back another year or more losing one of the few locker room vets and leaders with zero talent to replace him. Say you sign Nick perry, after cutting cm3. At what cost? Will he be half the replacement we expected from clay at his highest level? Is it gonna even be as productive as this past season? What do you do with your other side, you gonna play fackrell, Gilbert, go out and sign someone so your still blowing 20 million plus hoping you get better production? Oh wait we can trade for Connor barwin - trade what? Draft picks?? Not happening. With the ragtag bunch we have on our defense today, we are no where near the contenders we should be. Sure they're young and show some talent at times, but who are any of those guys gonna look to in the locker room when times get tough, because you better believe they will. The only guys who have the slightest clue are HHCD and Morgan Burnett. Guess who are free agents next off season? Gonna draft and develop to replace those guys??

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kevinmooney's picture

March 01, 2017 at 10:44 am

I agree, we need to keep the locker room vets - what few we have being such a young team. I really don't want to see Clay go because I think a declining Clay, IF that's the case, still poses a threat offenses must consider. But at the price tag he's at, it really hurts. I would like to see Clay restructured if he under performs another year and a FA brought in. Fat chance.

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dobber's picture

March 01, 2017 at 04:56 pm

I think that's where you're wrong: a player like CMIII, at a premium position like OLB/edge, even at 31 will easily get a contract in the $8M+ range on the open market. Look at comparable players and their contracts. You want to argue decline and injury, you can do that, but someone will pony up. He's got no real motivation to re-up with the Packers for a deal under $8-9M per year unless the Packers push his cap hit out over a couple years of extension with bonuses and guaranteed money...and why would the Packers do that?

CMIII is playing in 2017 to earn the remainder of his contract...look it up at sportrac.com. He's not really all that susceptible to being cut this year and he knows it, but he IS likely to lose out on $11.4M in 2018 if he doesn't play well this season because he's likely to get cut (no dead money). In fact, I would argue that he's likely to get cut next off-season regardless. At 32 he's going to be harder pressed to earn that kind of money except on 1-2 year deals. He's essentially in a contract year this year, and if he's not cut, next year, too.

Why do we pretend that if we cut CMIII and "use his money to sign a pass rusher" that the Packers would do any better than what they currently have? I think we all knew that those premier guys were not likely to hit the open market.

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Hematite's picture

February 28, 2017 at 06:48 pm

For me, it's either take a pay cut now or take a hike.
Dead money be damned.
With him or without him the defense will be the Packers Achilles heel again in 2017.
Use the money elsewhere..

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Point-Packer's picture

February 28, 2017 at 07:46 pm

Agree, but this will never happen. Ted far too conservative. Mathews will in GB next year. Overpaid. Underachieving. Defense will suck again. We'll lose another playoff game. All the extreme homers will defend the organizations decisions. And we'll have the same convo next year.

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Samson's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:22 pm

Your stark honesty has ruined my day. -- The problem is that you're exactly correct. --- I doubt GB can be bailed out (once again) by the extraordinary play of the QB. -- Dark days could be just around the corner followed by major unsettling changes.

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Tundraboy's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:06 pm

If they want to really win, both he and Cobb should agree to a restructure, take a cut. If not we should let them both go. No more time to wait around for others to step up, make leaps. This team needs a major talent infusion on D or they are not winning anything any time soon. I know I'm dreaming but they need to go after some impact free agents, several, now. This D is always on it's heels and incapable of dictating the course of a game when needed. The fact that Matthews has not made a consistent impact since 2012 is stunning. That's a huge chunk during the prime of his career. He is now a complimentary player and Peppers a part timer. Other than Daniels and Burnett, who do we have that is above average at this point?

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Samson's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:30 pm

Daniels, Burnett and Ha-Ha are it on the "D". --- They are the three best on the "D". --- In reality, they should only be good complimentary players to much better players on the "D". -- You know, something akin to a Woodson, Collins, Jenkins, etc. --- Even a Raji as a rookie would be nice going into 2017.

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akeemthedream's picture

February 28, 2017 at 08:25 pm

Anyone else feel that keeping Capers on staff is MM's way of telling TT "Hey - it's not my coaches, it's your ineptitude"?

As for Matthews - I agree with Point Packer. Cut his ass. The defense wouldn't change one iota. What's the point? Would Fackrell/Perry or Elliott/Perry really be any different?

In fact, why would any Packer fan worry about losing any Packer defensive player? The unit is a disaster.

I was hoping they would use Matthews' and/or Perry's $ to sign Ingram. Bummer he got tagged.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 28, 2017 at 10:15 pm

The unicorns and rainbows coming out the rear days in GB are over. Without a major defensive overhaul, this team will continue to go 11-5/10-6 and get the crap kicked out of it in the playoffs. TT has failed to draft well and has been even worse developing. And then has let the wrong players go (Hayward). MM has been horrendous in the playoffs - think Seattle NFC championship. Perhaps the worst coached game in GB history. Rodgers gives a team a chance to win the SB every year. Coaching and player management has failed GB and its fans.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2017 at 08:21 am

True. With it so unlikely that we will sign any free agents, sure is gloomy. Need a miracle and maybe just maybe when the D is at it's bleakest, a draft pick will be a shocking surprise. I'm bracing myself for another year of the same and maybe the shit will hit the fan and there will be wholesale changes in management coaching and philosophy. l

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J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

March 02, 2017 at 12:01 pm

They'll have to sign FAs this year, they have too much money to spend! Even if they roll 10millionish to next year, they have a lot left over.

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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2017 at 10:38 pm

I'm not worried a bit. Most were willing to pay Peppers 10 mil. but not Mathews 15. And then you're not going to pay Perry 10 mil or Jones even 5 mil. You people really have a double standard. The guy's a Green Bay packer. You can't tell me this club has not gotten their money in Hype, endorsements, big plays, and he's kissed everyone's ass to go in the middle. I put up with some WR for three years dropping balls, a bunch of pathetic ILBs, not to mention nothing but a swinging door of elephants/OLBs. If the guy gets us to the super-bowl, (I hope you want to give him back the money you want from him. But you surely won't give him a bonus. ) TT doesn't have enough all-pros now. And you want him gone. Did you every think the problem wasn't Mathews. But Moss and Capers league leading defense. You really would rather have some guy take 3 years to develop. Just sad!

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porupack's picture

March 01, 2017 at 04:14 am

well said stockholder. You don't get rid of a great player, without having a solid replacement in mind (not chancing it with draft picks), or at least shifting CMIII into different roles or schemes, and then restructuring contract. Solutions aren't a player-by-player approach, but a positions group approach, or even a change-of scheme approach.

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akeemthedream's picture

March 01, 2017 at 05:14 am

Having $25+ million locked into just Matthews and Perry next season would be a big problem.

I would let them both go.
They are not game changing players.
The defense is bad WITH them - why throw money at 'em?

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

March 01, 2017 at 08:07 am

Akeem, I agree on Matthews but not Perry. He's an elite outside run stuffer who chalked up 11 sacks in 14 games with a horrible secondary. What would his season have been woth some decent coverage?

No, we need to re-sign Perry. 5 years, $50 million. Make Clay take a pay cut or BE cut. Spend on one good CB and draft an edge rusher in Round 1.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2017 at 08:24 am

Nah, that makes too much sense.

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stockholder's picture

March 01, 2017 at 11:26 am

Let's compare Mathews to Perry. Size, early years, draft position. Perry is slow, compared to Mathews, and he has more career sacks. Perry is not worth 10 mil a year. He's only going to slow down, and the contract will eat cap. Draft THE MATHEWS TYPE! TT screwed with us to long saying a DE can be great at OLB.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 28, 2017 at 11:55 pm

Next year may actually be more like an 8-8 Ray Rhodes year. The more I think about it, the more it's likely where GB is headed.

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kevinmooney's picture

March 01, 2017 at 10:47 am

Let's not get too doomsday about it. This team was in the NFC title game despite all these problems. I think it's foolish to not think this team has problems to solve based on the fact that we got that far, especially seeing as it was by the skin of our teeth, but this is not an 8-8 team as long as #12 plays. This defense has some players, just needs to be bolstered.

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NickPerry's picture

March 01, 2017 at 06:38 am

This didn't happen overnight, this started the moment Thompson let Jenkins walk out the door. This continued the moment he took YEARS to try and replace Collins. The Packers are where they are today defensively because of Thompson.

When people have to point to Woodson and Pickett as Thompson Free Agent signings you have HUGE problems which the Packers do. Draft and Develop is fine except when you don't have the players to stay competitive while they develop. Keep talking about Teds accomplishments in 2005 or the SB in 2010 because TT has the Packers moving farther and farther away each year.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2017 at 08:28 am

Excellent. I would only add...
... and when 4 or 5 of the players you have that make you competitive are always injured and never play a full season.

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Ryan Graham's picture

March 01, 2017 at 09:29 am

You can credit a lot of that the past decade to Mark Lovat. How many groin and hamstring injuries can the organization put up with before someone with a brain between their ears says "wow, that's a highly preventable injury. What causes this? Oh, lack of preparation in the off-season and camp?"

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dobber's picture

March 01, 2017 at 09:54 am

Sometimes it's because some of these guys are overly trained and bulked up. They lose flexibility and are more prone to strains and pulls. It's hard to simulate the suddenness and change-of-direction that happens in-game in personal training. If I had to guess, that might have something to do with CMIII's issues.

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kevinmooney's picture

March 01, 2017 at 10:49 am

I can't disagree. The willingness to let certain players walk over the years has been shocking. Now, you can't keep everyone and hindsight is 20/20, but there has been lack of creativity when it comes to talent replacement and it has been slow. You mention Nick Collins - we waited until a safety fell to us in the draft and then waited for that safety to develop. So, we were without a really good safety for what - 3 or 4 years? That's unacceptable.

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kevinmooney's picture

March 01, 2017 at 10:52 am

(Referring to replacing Collins ultimately with HaHa by the way)

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J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

March 02, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Now just imagine if TT would have taken a few of the fast, early round LBers over the years we were begging him to take. I can think of quite a few we passed over who would have revolutionized our D.

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DrMixerGED's picture

March 01, 2017 at 09:02 am

Move Matthews inside @ half the pay. Go get Dont'a Hightower. Draft a true honest to goodness corner.

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dfarmer's picture

March 01, 2017 at 09:09 am

renegotiate... reduced $$ and play where he is best suited and needed...

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Couch Cleats's picture

March 01, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Lets say Clay refuses a pay cut for 2017. The Packers sign Perry and then pick up at least one legitimate pass rusher in the draft (probably 2). We enter camp with Clay, Perry, Fackrell and a rookie or 2.

Having Clay gives us depth at inside backer too that way. So what if he's overpaid for a year as long as the Cap all works out. If he ends up playing healthy and returns to form he is a game changer. If not, and the others all look promising in camp, maybe Clay becomes this year's Josh Sitton if we are not able to trade him.

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egbertsouse's picture

March 01, 2017 at 01:14 pm

No patience. He can renegotiate for less money or hit the bricks. He's not Vonn Miller. It's time for Ted take a lesson from The Hoodie.

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dobber's picture

March 01, 2017 at 02:58 pm

This is a lesson TT has known for years...

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JacFrost's picture

March 02, 2017 at 07:49 pm

Oh the Denver GM is going all in again on free agents. He wants to work n and Superbowl. The only he wants to develop is a larger case for more trophies.

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JacFrost's picture

March 02, 2017 at 07:46 pm

I don't think it's decline. His huge year the Superman Superbowl year, he had genkins bull rushing QB right into cm arms. He went down hill the moment Ted led genkens go. He never came near the numbers after that.

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