New contract, but same Clay Matthews.
That’s what the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker said on Wednesday after signing a contract extension that will keep him with the Green Bay Packers through the 2018 season.
“It feels good,” Matthews said while standing on the big “G” in the middle of the Packers’ locker room. “It’s funny, because not a whole lot has changed. I’m happy about it (and) it’s nice, it’s very humbling and it’s a blessing, but it’s business as usual for me. I’m glad that they have put their trust in me and belief in me in awarding me this, but at the same time you’re going to get the same type of unwavering perseverance on the field and dedication that I’m going to bring day in and day out. I feel good but not much has changed.”
The five-year extension is worth $66 million. Tacking on his 2013 base salary of $3.73 million, Matthews’ six-year deal totals $69.73 million. That dethrones Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware as No. 1 at the position; he signed a six-year, $68 million deal in 2009.
Matthews said he would not “take the bait” of calling himself the highest-paid linebacker, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Matthews, the second of the Packers’ two first-round picks in 2009, is the only player in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the league. He has registered 42.5 sacks since entering the league, ranking No. 5 in the NFL over that span, and has finished in the top five in the league in sacks two of the last three seasons with 13.5 in 2010 and 13 in 2012.
“I think I play this game at a high level and I agree with the numbers they put up as well as what I’ve been able to accomplish both on the field and off the field as well as my leadership,” he said. “Take that for what you want, but I think I bring a lot to this game.”
And with that, one of the items topping general manager Ted Thompson’s offseason to-do list has been taken care of.
“Clay has been a productive member of our team and we are pleased to be able to come to an agreement that will extend his Packers career,” general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement announcing the transaction.
“Congratulations to Clay, who has quickly developed into a core member of our team,” coach Mike McCarthy added in a statement. “His accomplishments and the example he sets on and off the field will be vital to our continued success. We look forward to the rest of his Packers career.”
With the money comes responsibility, and Matthews is ready for more as a player and as a leader. Matthews arrived as a first-round pick, even though he started less than one full season at USC. Since then, he said he’s grown by “light-years” during his four seasons in Green Bay. He said he can get “a lot better,” which is a scary proposition considering he has three 10-sack seasons (No. 3 in team history) and two-plus sacks in nine games (No. 5 in franchise history), along with four interceptions (including two pick-sixes), seven forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries (including one for a touchdown).
“With the loss to some of those key defensive players, especially with Charles (Woodson) on the defensive side, and with them putting a new contract in place for me, it definitely shows their belief in me in being a leader and kind of a stalwart in this defense,” Matthews said. “So, I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’ve continued to lead through my short time here and I look to continue that leadership position. Who knows what that entails but I’m looking forward to it.”
Up next, presumably, is a contract extension for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who also is represented by agent David Dunn. Combined, they’ll take up between one-quarter and one-third of the salary cap. That leads to a daunting team-building challenge for Thompson, but Rodgers and Matthews give the team two premier building blocks.
“I love what this team is doing,” Matthews said. “I love the direction we’re going and what we’ve been able to accomplish – the numerous team accolades, including a Super Bowl, that we’ve been able to achieve. I’m looking forward for the next six years.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.