Did Green Bay Packers Overpay for Clay Matthews?

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IApril 17, 2013

The Green Bay Packers have agreed to a five-year, $65 million extension ($31 million guaranteed) with outside linebacker Clay Matthews, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter

Despite making Matthews one of the game's highest-paid pass-rushers, the Packers in no way overpaid to keep the elite defender in Green Bay through the 2018 season. In fact, locking up Matthews was likely one of the easier decisions general manager Ted Thompson made this offseason. 

While the gargantuan contract numbers ($13.2 million per year) certainly jump off the page, the Packers agreed to a deal that is market value for a player of Matthews' caliber. 

When compared to other pass-rushers around the league, only Mario Williams ($16 million per year) and Julius Peppers ($14 million) are making more annually over their respective contracts. Matthews' new deal lands him slightly above the likes of Charles Johnson, Jared Allen and Chris Long, each of whom are scheduled to make at least $12 million a season. 

Even the guaranteed money wasn't an overpay for Green Bay, as Matthews will pocket less there than Johnson, Long and Tamba Hali. 

Without much doubt, the 26-year-old linebacker has already established himself among the elite category of defensive players. 

In 58 career regular season games, Matthews has produced 42.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions. His 42.5 sacks are the fourth-most in the NFL since 2009 and already ranks Matthews as the fifth-most productive sacker in franchise history. 

The accolades go on. 

Matthews was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, making him the first player in franchise history to accomplish such a feat. He was also an NFL All-Pro in both 2010 and 2012, and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2010, when he produced 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. 

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription needed), Matthews has graded out in the top six of 3-4 outside linebackers in every year since 2009. His best finish came in 2012, when he was rated as No. 2 at the position—just behind Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys

Matthews' value also extends past rushing the passer, even if he's been the Packers' only reliable player in that area for the better part of the last two seasons. 

According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, the Packers allowed 5.5 yards per carry in the four games Matthews missed last season. When he came back into the lineup, that number dropped to just 3.4. 

At PFF, he graded out as one of the Packers' best run defenders in both 2011 and 2012. 

New contract in hand, Matthews will now tack on the five years and $65 million to the remaining one year and $3.7 million he was scheduled to make next season. The agreement essentially becomes six years and roughly $69 million to keep Matthews in Green Bay into his early-30s. 

Considering his age, the impact he makes against both the pass and run and the value his position holds in today's NFL, the Packers made a smart and predictable move in making him one of the game's top-paid defensive players. 

While now the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, Matthews' new compensation is fitting for both player and franchise.