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Los Angeles Rams LB Clay Matthews: Green Bay Packers said “there was no room for me”

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The Packers made it clear: they no longer wanted Clay Matthews’ services. But the Rams clearly do. Tim Godfrey on the difference between the two.

Los Angeles Rams LB Clay Matthews during organized team activities, May 20, 2019. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Current Los Angeles Rams LB Clay Matthews said he was shocked to learn the Green Bay Packers didn’t want him anymore. Not even at a discount.

According to NFL Network’s Mike Silver, Matthews said he was driving to the Packers’ facility when he got the call from Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst.

Recalled Matthews: “I picked it up and he just said, ‘Hey, there’s no money for you. I just want to thank you. I just want to thank you for being yada yada yada.’ And, you know, that was kind of that.”

After the Rams offered him a 2-year, $9.25 million deal, Matthews’ agent reached out to the Packers to see if they wanted to bring the linebacker back at a rate that was “similar to what the Rams were offering,” Silver wrote.

No dice, obviously.

As Silver notes, Matthews’ stat line dropped in the last few seasons. He recorded double digit sacks in four of his first six seasons with 2010 being his career-best year in sacks with 13.5. He recorded 13 again in 2012, but then his numbers started to dip and averaged around 5.6 in his last four seasons.

Last year, he averaged just 3.5 sacks through 16 starts, his career worst. One of those sacks came against the Rams.

Matthews said he was moved to inside linebacker once in 2014 and then again the following season to fill in for an injured middle linebacker. After that, Matthews’ said he would start inside “at a moment’s notice.” He also experienced a change at defensive coordinator from Dom Capers to Mike Pettine.

This time around, he gets to benefit from playing in Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense. In a Q&A with The Athletic in July, Matthews said he believed Phillips’ was going to have him back on the edge as a pass-rusher:

That’s obviously what I do best. But at the same time, I think my versatility, especially on third down, especially when we’re trying to create some chaos, confusion, I think they’ll use me to do that as well. There will be times when I’m covering No. 2 in the slot and there will be times I’m covering the back out of the backfield, and there will be times I’ll be rushing outside, or I’ll be rushing inside, on a center or a guard.

Make no mistake, the Matthews’ the Rams are getting is not going to be the same Matthews’ the Packers for the better part of a decade. Like S Eric Weddle, there’s a noticeable dip in their production which is normal for longtime veterans.

But Phillips’ has a proven track record for formulating his defenses to highlight the strengths of his personnel. Matthews’ strengths will be especially highlighted with DT Aaron Donald. As Brian Baldinger points out in this breakdown, Matthews’ pass-rushing skills are still effective and he will be able to take advantage of the attention opposing defenses give Donald.