After all the free agents and the drafting and all the hype, the Browns still have one significant hole that needs to be filled. They need a veteran linebacker that can lead a young talented group of players. There are a few left on the market, but only one is a nostalgic pick for the Cleveland fanbase. Is that nostalgia blinding the fact Clay Matthews III is nowhere near the player he was? Or does Matthews still have enough in the tank to help lead this defense, in particular, the linebacking core?
Last season with the Rams
On the surface, it looks as though Clay Williams had a solid first season in LA. He had 37 total tackles, nine for loss, 28 pressures, eight sacks, and forced a couple of fumbles. Clay even threw in three passes defended for good measure. The stat line shows a productive season, but are the surface stats telling the entire story?
Pro Football Focus had Matthews at an overall grade of 54.2 in 2019, carried by a solid pass rush season. Obviously, with a grade at that level, he struggled in other areas. If the idea is bringing in a situational veteran for the specific job of getting after the quarterback, then struggles in other areas become irrelevant. Even when a team would try to exploit the fact he is a situational player, Matthews still has enough athleticism and savvy. He should be able to hold his own. If you’re expecting Clay Matthews from four-five years ago, you are in for a big disappointment. Matthews is a 33-year-old linebacker that needs to be kept fresh by a smart defensive coordinator to be effective for the season.
Why the Browns?
The first reason that comes to mind is need. The most experienced player in the linebacker room has been mostly a career backup in B.J. Goodson. A veteran to lead that group and help guide them is something the Browns front office has to provide. Andrew Berry has scored high marks this offseason, but the one area he still needs to fix is at linebacker. While Matthews may not be the player he once was, his leadership and skill set would be valuable to a young defense. Berry should be gaging what it would take to bring the veteran to Cleveland. Nostalgia or not Matthews can help, and if a player can make your team better, you do what you can to bring him in.
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