Clay Matthews has been a staple of the Packers defense since first arriving in Green Bay in 2009, but sadly, it may finally be time to say goodbye. Matthews is set to be a free agent, and with an expiring contract, The Packers have a real decision to make with the legendary linebacker.
Matthews just completed his 10th season in Green Bay. He is a six-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks. He's got a chance to end up in Canton one day. But Matthews is also coming off the least productive season of his career, and now that he's 32 years old, he's not likely to get much better.
With that in mind, let's identify three players the Packers should target to replace him.
3. Jadeveon Clowney
Should Jadeveon Clowney not re-sign or receive the franchise tag from the Houston Texans, he will instantly become one of the most-wanted defensive players on the market. The Packers would immediately replace Matthews with a game-changing freak of an athlete who has recorded 29 sacks in five seasons with the Texans.
He would become the cornerstone of the Green Bay defense, and could play a key role in reversing fortunes for a team that has gone a surprising two straight years without a playoff berth.
2. Anthony Barr
Anthony Barr is a more realistic option for the Packers at linebacker, and would provide Green Bay with the versatility they need to turn the page and get their act together.
He struggled with some injuries early in the season, but bounced back strong and finished the year well with a Vikings team that finished with a winning record. He also showed real skill as a pass rusher, which would vastly increase his value to the Packers.
The only issue with Barr has been his consistency, but if he plays like he did last year down the stretch, the Pack should have no qualms about offering him a nice deal.
1. Preston Smith
Preston Smith is one of the most underrated players in this crop of free agents. He is only 26 years old, and is coming off of his best season in the NFL. He has recorded 24.5 sacks in the last four seasons with the Redskins, and has made a significant impact on the field even when the stats haven't necessarily reflected it.
He would immediately step into the Packers outside linebacker and pass rusher role, and would perfectly replace the play of Matthews.