Clay Matthews is now the NFL's highest-paid linebacker. bit.ly/ZAEYEkThe extension is for five years, but it's added to the final year of his rookie contract, so he's now scheduled to be paid $69+ million over the next 6 years. The annual cost is $11.6 million. It doesn't look like a hometown discount, but it does look like he's giving up a little money for the security of a long-term deal.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 18, 2013
The salary cap is going to be flat for the next few years, so the mega contracts signed a couple years ago by guys like DeMarcus Ware should remain the ceiling. While Matthews's extension makes him the highest paid linebacker, he's not the highest paid defensive player.
Which is a little surprising because I had expected Matthews to be paid like one of the top defensive ends, who receive the big bucks for their sack totals, and sacks are the biggest part of his game. But the Packers were able to negotiate like he's just another linebacker. It certainly helped their cause that the Packers are working out a deal now, when he's not an unrestricted free agent or wrecking their salary cap with a high franchise tag number, and it's allowed them to avoid the salary cap crushers like the Bills gave to DE Mario Williams or the Bears gave to DE Julius Peppers. It doesn't look like Matthews will even crack the Top 15 in yearly average for non-quarterbacks. Re-signing Matthews for less than the Dolphins gave to WR Mike Wallace makes this look like a deal for the Packers.
Hopefully this makes everyone happy, and it should. Matthews doesn't have to wait another year to become an unrestricted free agent and the Packers pay less than other teams paid for the top unrestricted free agents. This was a huge deal that seemed like it was just a matter of time, so I'm glad it's been wrapped up, and now the Packers can get back to the business of QB Aaron Rodgers's next big contract.