GREEN BAY, Wis. — One big deal done for the Green Bay Packers, one to go.
The Packers locked up star linebacker Clay Matthews with a long-term extension Wednesday, and also is negotiating with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“It feels good,” Matthews said Wednesday during a news conference inside the Packers’ locker room. “It’s funny, because not a whole lot has changed. I’m happy about it but for me, it’s nice, it’s very humbling and it’s a blessing, but it’s business as usual for me. I’m glad that they have put their trust in me and belief in me in awarding me this, but at the same time you’re going to get the same type of unwavering perseverance on the field and dedication that I’m going to bring day in and day out. I feel good but not much has changed.
Matthews posted a picture of himself on Twitter signing the deal, saying, “Trivial amongst the recent tragic news, but happy to continue my career in Green Bay!”
The Packers did not announce terms of the extension, reported to be for five years, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the deal is worth $66 million. That would put Matthews on par with Dallas outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, whose contract also averages $13 million per year.
“Clay has been a productive member of our team and we are pleased to be able to come to an agreement that will extend his Packers career,” general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement.
With Matthews’ deal done, the Packers can turn all of their attention to Rodgers, whose extension is expected to make him the highest-paid player in the league. Agent David Dunn represents Matthews and Rodgers, as well as defensive tackle B.J. Raji.
“Hopefully, that’s the next order of business,” Matthews said about Rodgers’ extension. “Being good friends with him, represented by the same agent, who knows, hopefully that’s sooner than later.”
Matthews said he didn’t think the team would be hamstrung by big contracts for its two biggest stars, and that the team’s draft-and-develop philosophy would keep it competitive.
“One thing this organization does well. I know we catch a little heat sometimes that we like to build through the draft and develop our players and we’ve done a great job of that,” Matthews said. “Our free agents are the ones who were up on their contracts. It’s no different than Aaron, myself or whoever’s up next. I’ll leave that to them, but for the most part we’ve had some success here over the last few years in maintaining keep players and I don’t see it to be any different.”
Matthews was set to earn a base of $3.73 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, signed after the Packers made him the 26th pick in the 2009 draft. But the 26-year-old’s price tag has gone up considerably as he has become one of the top linebackers in the NFL. He had 42 1/2 sacks in his first four seasons, fifth-best in the NFL during that span. He has finished in the top five in the league in sacks in two of the last three seasons, with 13 1/2 in 2010 and 13 in 2012.
He was fourth in the NFL in sacks last season after missing four games with a hamstring injury.
Matthews has three 10-sack seasons, third-best in Packers history, and nine games with two or more sacks.
The son of Clay Matthews Jr., who played linebacker for 19 NFL seasons in Cleveland and Atlanta, and nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, Matthews is the only player in Packers history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons.
Matthews also has four interceptions in 58 games, including two that were returned for touchdowns. He’s forced seven fumbles and recovered three, one of which was returned for a score.
“Congratulations to Clay, who has quickly developed into a core member of our team,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “His accomplishments and the example he sets on and off the field will be vital to our continued success. We look forward to the rest of his Packers career.”
So does Matthews, who will take on a greater leadership role following the Feb. 15 release of eight-time Pro Bowl defensive back Charles Woodson.
“With the loss to some of those key defensive players, especially with Charles (Woodson) on the defensive side and with them putting a new contract in place for me, it definitely shows their belief in me in being a leader and kind of a stalwart in this defence,” Matthews said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’ve continued to lead through my short time here and I look to continue that leadership position. Who knows what that entails but I’m looking forward to it.”