Clay Matthews

Broncos Reached Out To Cameron Wake, Couldn’t Agree On Deal

The Broncos continue to seek replacements for Von Miller. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the organization recently reached out to free agent pass rusher Cameron Wake. However, the two sides were unable to agree on a contract.

Earlier this week, Denver lost Miller to an ankle injury that will likely sideline him for the entire season. While there’s *some* optimism that the veteran linebacker could return towards the end of the campaign, that hasn’t stopped the front office from approaching free agent pass rushers. We heard the other day that the Broncos inquired on veteran edge rusher Clay Matthews. The team was informed that Matthews is “not going to play,” but agent Ryan Williams later clarified that he was “unable to come to an agreement with Denver,” and his client “remains open to playing in the NFL in 2020, provided it’s the right opportunity for him and his family”

So, the Broncos apparently turned their focus to Wake, who earned five Pro Bowl nods during his 10 seasons with the Dolphins. The veteran spent the 2019 season with the Titans, compiling four tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 11 quarterback hits in nine games. When the 38-year-old was cut by Tennessee back in March, he indicated that he wanted to play during the 2020 campaign.

Denver’s offer to Wake was well off its Matthews proposal, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Broncos also pursued Aldon Smith before the Cowboys signed him; Klis adds the team has not contacted Terrell Suggs or Ziggy Ansah about a deal.

Assuming the Broncos don’t end up signing a linebacker who can play this weekend, the team will enter the season with some question marks at linebacker. Former first-rounder Bradley Chubb has been working his way back from a torn ACL, and the team is otherwise relying on the likes of Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Malik Reed, Jeremiah Attaochu, and Mark Barron.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clay Matthews Turns Down Broncos Offer

The Broncos inquired on veteran edge rusher Clay Matthews after losing Von Miller to injury, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). According to a league source, the Broncos were informed that Matthews is “not going to play.” However, that’s not quite the case. Agent Ryan Williams says he was “unable to come to an agreement with Denver,” but his client “remains open to playing in the NFL in 2020, provided it’s the right opportunity for him and his family” (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).

[RELATED: Return Possible For Broncos’ Von Miller?]

Matthews, 34, racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts) last year, despite missing some time with a broken jaw. In the interest of equal time, the sacks may not tell the whole story – Matthews had just eleven QB hits in 2019, similar to his 12 QB hits in 2018 with the Packers, when he finished out with just 3.5 sacks.

Regardless, Matthews would have been a strong last-minute pickup to bolster the Broncos’ edge rush. They’ll be without Miller for three months at minimum, or the entire season at maximum. They might also have to get by without former first-round pick Bradley Chubb for a bit as he works his way back from last year’s ACL tear.

Matthews has 91.5 career sacks, putting him at the doorstep of the century mark. If he returns and hits 100 sacks, he’d be the 35th player in league history to join the club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Seahawks’ Pass Rush

For months now, the Seahawks have been connected to two of the highest-profile edge defenders on this year’s free agent market, Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen. They were reportedly in on the Griffen sweepstakes, but the longtime Vikings DE opted to sign with the Cowboys, so Seattle is still on the hunt for an experienced pass rusher.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that the team does have interest in Clay Matthews, who posted six sacks in the first five games of the 2019 season — his first and only year with the Rams — but who suffered a broken jaw in October that derailed his season. Matthews is not as productive as Clowney or Griffen at this stage of his career, but he could still be serviceable as a rotational piece.

However, Rapoport believes the club may circle back to Clowney. The first overall pick of the 2014 draft has had a frustrating offseason, as he did not get offers anywhere close to the $20MM AAV he was seeking, and perhaps his most aggressive suitor, the Browns, now appear to be out of the mix. Rapoport says Clowney has not closed the door on the Seahawks, and the last we heard, the Seahawks had not closed the door on him, so a reunion could still be in the cards.

That is especially true given that the team’s second-round pick, DE Darrell Taylor, is still on the team’s NFI list. Taylor played his final collegiate season at Tennessee with a stress fracture in his shin, and after the season was over, he underwent surgery to have a titanium rod inserted in his leg. His recovery is reportedly going well, but as Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk writes, Taylor may be sidelined for another few weeks.

While the Seahawks did add Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa this offseason, bringing back Clowney makes a lot of sense. His first year in the Emerald City could have gone better, but his upside remains sky-high, and at this point, Seattle might be able to get him for something of a bargain.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Aren’t Interested In Everson Griffen, Clay Matthews

The Browns are still showing interest in Jadeveon Clowney, but they’re not quite as keen on the market’s other top edge rushers. Everson Griffen and Clay Matthews do not seem to be on their radar, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Top 10 Available Edge Rushers]

Griffen’s market has been slow to develop so far. Earlier this summer, he was linked to the Cardinals, but there hasn’t been any movement on that front, to our knowledge. Griffen, 32, has 74.5 sacks to his credit over ten NFL seasons. And, since Clowney came into the league in 2014, Griffen has registered 55 sacks. Still, Clowney is six years younger and the Browns likely see him as having better upside for 2020.

Matthews, 34, racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts) last year, despite missing some time with a broken jaw. In the interest of equal time, the sacks may not tell the whole story – Matthews had just 11 QB hits in 2019, similar to his 12 QB hits in 2018 with the Packers. In his final season with Green Bay, Matthews finished out with just 3.5 sacks.

Ultimately, it sounds like the Browns are open to replacing Olivier Vernon as their No. 2 DE, but only if they can find an edge rusher who represents a clear upgrade. And, from the sound of it, Clowney is the only available pass rusher who fits the bill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top Edge Rushers Still Available

Putting pressure on the opposing quarterback is critical to a team’s success in today’s NFL, and there are a number of players still languishing on the free agent market who are capable of doing just that. While the pandemic has understandably made teams leery of authorizing big-money contracts, some of the available talent can be had for a fairly minimal commitment, and it would not be surprising to see them come off the board as we get closer (hopefully) to training camp.

So let’s take a look at the best of the unsigned pass rushers.

  1. Jadeveon Clowney: Not many players have been in the news more than Clowney this offseason. By now, everyone knows that Clowney was seeking a multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $20MM when free agency opened, but he has had to modify his demands in a big way. The Browns are believed to have two offers on the table: a one-year pact worth $15MM, and a multi-year contract worth around $12MM/year. Cleveland does not seem to be high on Clowney’s list of preferred destinations, but the club does have the makings of a postseason contender. It will be interesting to see if another team tries to top the Browns’ proposals to land a potentially game-changing talent.
  2. Everson Griffen: Back in May, Griffen was rated as our No. 3 best available free agent, and he would be the No. 2 talent on that list today now that Cam Newton has signed with the Patriots. Shortly after the list was published, we heard that the Cardinals may be interested, but nothing has transpired on the Griffen front in the last six weeks. The 32-year-old showed that he still has plenty left in the tank after registering eight sacks in 2019, and the fact that he is still unsigned may indicate that his contract demands are too high right now.
  3. Ezekiel Ansah: The Seahawks paired Clowney with Ansah in 2019 with the hopes of creating a true two-headed pass-rushing monster. That did not exactly work out as planned, as Clowney managed just three sacks and Ansah posted 2.5 while playing in 11 games. Ansah just couldn’t regain the form that he displayed during his best years with the Lions, and it certainly seems as if he does not have another double-digit sack campaign in him. Still, he is another year removed from the shoulder injury that marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, so he will surely get a chance to be a part of someone’s pass rush rotation in 2020.
  4. Michael Bennett: Bennett wants to play in 2020, but thus far, it doesn’t sound as if there has been much interest in his services. The three-time Pro Bowler enjoyed a nine-sack effort with the Eagles in 2018, but he was traded to the Patriots in March 2019 and clashed with New England brass. In October, the Pats shipped him to the Cowboys, for whom he posted four sacks in nine games. In total, he collected 6.5 sacks last year while playing fewer snaps than he is accustomed to. He may very well start to attract more interest once camp gets underway.
  5. Markus Golden: No one other than the incumbent Giants has expressed interest in Golden since free agency began, and it seems like the 29-year-old will be back with Big Blue in 2020. The Giants put the rarely-used UFA tender on him, which means that he will only be eligible to play for New York if he does not sign another offer prior to the start of training camp (presently scheduled for July 28). Though Golden posted 10 sacks in 2019, he did so off of just 26 pressures, which teams likely see as an unsustainable conversion rate. The UFA tender would pay Golden $4.125MM this season.
  6. Jabaal Sheard: Sheard has never quite lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher, and the 8.5 sacks he totaled in his rookie season in 2011 remain a career high. But he has averaged over five sacks per season over the course of a mostly-durable nine-year career, and he still looks the part of a starting DE. Fresh off a reasonably productive three-year stint with the Colts, Sheard has not yet been connected to any club this offseason.
  7. Clay Matthews: Matthews opened the 2019 campaign with his hair on fire, posting six sacks in the first five games of the season. It appeared that the two-year, $16.75MM contract the Rams gave to the longtime Packer in March 2019 was going to pay off in a big way, but Matthews suffered a broken jaw in October that derailed his season. He picked up two more sacks the rest of the way, and LA cut ties with him earlier this year. There have been no public reports of interest in the 34-year-old, but he could be a valuable veteran presence if deployed in the right way.
  8. Vinny Curry: Curry has always been a situational pass rusher. Even when he started all 16 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2017, he played in just over half of the club’s defensive snaps. His one year in Tampa Bay in 2018 was not a smashing success, but he returned to Philadelphia in 2019 to reprise his role as a player who can come in on passing downs and who represents a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback. The Jets were said to be interested in him in March, and Gang Green could still use pass rushing help, but the two sides have not yet come together on an agreement.
  9. Terrell Suggs: Suggs’ career accomplishments stand head and shoulders above those of most everyone else on this list. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and seven-time Pro Bowler has 139 career sacks to his credit, but he finally started to slow down in 2018, his final year in Baltimore, and he looked the part of an aging defender during his 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2019. Arizona cut him late last season and he was scooped up by the Chiefs, which allowed him to collect his second Super Bowl ring. It’s unclear if T-Sizzle has any interest in continuing his playing career, but he has nothing left to prove.
  10. Cameron Wake: Another player that would be higher on this list if not for his age, Wake was released by the Titans in March. The 38-year-old has said he wants to keep playing, but after a terrific run with the Dolphins from 2009-18, Wake’s one year with Tennessee did not go according to plan. He registered just two sacks in nine games and missed the final stretch of the season with a back injury. He might well be healthy now, but we are unaware of any teams with interest at this point.

NFC West Notes: Rams, Irvin, 49ers, TE

Clay Matthews will file a grievance against the Rams over more than $2MM in unpaid guarantees, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Todd Gurley, however, will not submit one, per ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. Gurley is owed a $7.55MM roster bonus, though offset language from his Falcons deal can reduce that to nearly $5.05MM, per McClure. The Rams, who released both players in March, said each player will receive his respective bonus payment. But the team believes neither payment is due for some time. Matthews’ two-year Rams deal included a $5.5MM guarantee, and Fowler adds that his contract contained $2MM in offset language. That would explain the reason for the delay. The Rams are likely waiting to see if another team will end up signing the veteran pass rusher. That would save the Rams the $2MM.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Despite Bruce Irvin having lined up as a defensive end in his four seasons away from Seattle — with the Raiders, Falcons and Panthers — the Seahawks are listing him as an outside linebacker. Going into the draft, the team viewed Irvin as an option to play off the ball in base sets before lining up as an end on passing downs, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). But the Seahawks used a first-round pick on Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks and possess a greater need at defensive end. Irvin did, however, play this hybrid role for the bulk of his first Seahawks stint.
  • Although the 49ers drafted Georgia tight end Charlie Woerner in the sixth round, he projects as more of a blocking tight end. The team is looking to add a receiving tight end to play behind George Kittle, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). UDFA Ross Dwelley filled in for Kittle while he missed time due to injury last season, but the ex-San Diego Torero averaged just 6.1 yards per reception on 15 grabs. The top free agent available is former 49er Delanie Walker, but the Titans released him after two injury-marred seasons. Jordan Reed, who played under Kyle Shanahan with the Redskins in 2013, may be a name to monitor as well. But Reed has dealt with numerous injuries during his career.
  • With the 49ers trading Matt Breida, their backfield group looks clearer. Once rumored as a trade candidate, Tevin Coleman now appears a lock to be back with the 49ers in 2020, Barrows adds. Coleman and special-teamer-turned-breakout back Raheem Mostert are almost certain to return, with the 49ers still rostering Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson. McKinnon will be the obvious wild card, given that he’s missed two full seasons.

Rams Rumors: Kupp, Goff, Gurley, Matthews

The latest on the Rams:

  • With one year left on his deal, wide receiver Cooper Kupp says he isn’t sweating the Rams for an extension. “There’s so much going on in the world right now,” Kupp said (Twitter link via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times). “It’s not really a priority at this time.” Cupp, 27 in June, managed 94 catches, 1,161 yards, and ten touchdowns last year – all career highs.
  • If the Rams need additional cap room, Jared Goff is open to a restructuring of his deal. “I don’t see why not,” said the quarterback, who added that it’s a matter to be discussed between his agent and Rams COO Kevin Demoff (Twitter link via Omar Ruiz of NFL.com). Thanks to the four-year, $134MM extension he signed last fall, Goff is under contract with L.A. through 2024.
  • After parting ways with the Rams, running back Todd Gurley and linebacker Clay Matthews said that the team was late on money they were still owed. In an interview on the NFL Network, GM Les Snead said that they will, in fact, get their bonus checks. However, the Rams disagree with Gurley and Matthews on the language of the contracts – the Rams believe that they’re not due to pay for some time. The Rams, in theory, could wait until other clubs pick up part of the tab via offset language.

NFC West Notes: Rams, Gurley, 49ers

Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews are still waiting on checks from the Rams, as Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com writes. Both players were jettisoned on March 19, but they believe they are still entitled to bonuses, per the terms of their contracts.

Past due,” Gurley tweeted at the Rams. “Send me money ASAP.”

You and me both TG!,” Matthews responded. “Better get some interest with that, too.”

Obviously, both players are better off than most during these unprecedented times, but they may have a case. The Rams owed Gurley a fully-guaranteed $7.55MM roster bonus on the third day of the league year. Even though the Rams will get some of that back from the Falcons, Gurley argues that he’s still owed a check. Matthews, meanwhile, has a similar case for his $2MM roster bonus.

While we wait to see how that plays out, here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Paycheck drama aside, the Rams must also figure out how they’ll replace Gurley in the offense. In an interview with Rich Eisen (Twitter link), head coach Sean McVay pointed to the potential of Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown, but also indicated that the Rams could explore running backs in the draft. Surely, the RB position is on their list of needs, but they’ve got other holes to fill, including wide receiver thanks to the trade that sent Brandin Cooks to the Texans. Of course, they’ll also have more to work with on draft weekend, thanks to the second-round pick they acquired from Houston.
  • Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports expects the 49ers to take a wide receiver with the No. 13 overall pick. Of course, they’ll also take a hard look at offensive tackles, defensive linemen, and cornerbacks in the early stages of the draft, but talents like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and CeeDee Lamb might be too tempting to pass up.
  • The 49ers also hold the No. 31 pick, but Matt Barrows of The Athletic doesn’t expect them to keep it. Instead, he sees them trading down to add to their arsenal. As of this writing, the Niners own Nos. 13, 31, 156, 176, 210, 217, and 245.

Rams To Release Clay Matthews

Todd Gurley isn’t the only Rams star on his way out. The Rams have released linebacker Clay Matthews, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Rams Cut Todd Gurley]

Matthews, 34 in May, wasn’t easy to let go. Last year, the veteran racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts), despite missing some time with a painful broken jaw.

Jaw aside, Matthews has been durable throughout his pro career. That’s part of what helped Matthews earned six Pro Bowl nods through his ten seasons in Green Bay and he seemed on pace for a seventh before that setback.

The Rams will have to find edge pressure elsewhere as they remake their entire defense. So far, they’ve watched Eric Weddle retire while Cory LittletonMichael Brockers and Dante Fowler have all departed in free agency. They also turned down their option on slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman. Meanwhile, they’ve added a handful of players, including former first-rounder Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson.

Thanks to his re-emergence under Wade Phillips, Matthews figures to draw some degree of interest on the open market. Matthews, however, did not live up to the extension he signed with the Packers. He failed to produce a double-digit sack season from 2015-18, recording just 3.5 and 12 quarterback hits in 2018. Matthews managed just 11 QB hits last season.

While the former Pro Bowler’s career is winding down, he still has a chance to reach 100 sacks. The former Packers first-round pick is up to 91.5 for his career. Matthews getting there would make him the 35th player in NFL history to do so. The third-generation NFLer will need to find a third team to help him reach this milestone, however.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Chiefs, Gase, Matthews, Texans

The Chiefs announced today that they signed team president Mark Donovan to a long-term extension.

“I’d like to congratulate Mark and his family on this well-deserved recognition,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Because of Mark’s leadership over the past decade, the business operations of the Chiefs are among the best in professional sports, and he and his team have worked tirelessly to create the best fan experience in the National Football League. Mark is an innovative leader and a talented executive who is widely respected in our industry and in the Kansas City community. I am thrilled that he will continue to be a key part of the leadership of the Chiefs for many years to come.”

Donovan joined the organization as their COO back in 2009, and he earned the promotion to his current role in 2011. The press release notes that he’s played a major role in helping to “re-establish Arrowhead Stadium as an elite venue for not only sports, but other forms of entertainment.” Donovan started working for the NFL back in 1999, and he’s also spent time with the Eagles organization.

Here are more NFL notes as we wrap up this Tuesday night:

  • Bill O’Brien said wide receiver Will Fuller is progressing from his hamstring injury (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). The wideout hasn’t played since suffering the injury during the Texans‘ Week 7 loss to the Colts. Meanwhile, Keke Coutee‘s absence shouldn’t be attributed to injury; O’Brien said the wideout hasn’t played due to his lack of “attention to detail” (via Wilson). The head coach made it clear that it wasn’t an effort issue, noting that the former fourth-rounder is a “great guy.”
  • The Jets fell to 1-7 after losing to the rebuilding Dolphins, meaning Adam Gase has naturally found himself on the hot seat. However, the head coach told reporters that he isn’t focused on his job security. “It’s just something that I don’t really focus on,” Gase said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post). “My job is to try to get the team prepared every week, get them ready to go, get them focused on the game that we have to play. One and seven is not fun to go through. Things haven’t gone the way that we wanted to. It’s just that’s what happens in the NFL sometimes and unfortunately, we’re going through it right now.” Gase joined the organization back in January on a four-year contract that’s rumored to be worth upwards of $20MM.
  • It was barely a month ago that Clay Matthews broke his jaw, but the Rams linebacker is set to return to practice. Coach Sean McVay told reporters that the veteran will return to the practice field this week, and the coaching staff will evaluate his progress as they determine his availability for this weekend. “Everything’s checked out in a positive manner up to this point, so I think it’s just kind of progressing back to, ‘How comfortable do you feel putting a helmet on?’” McVay told the team’s website. “Some of the collisions that naturally would occur and just kind of trusting that you’re nice and secure in that absence of some of that stuff that kind of kept it in place and helped it heal over the last couple weeks.” Matthews has six sacks in five games with his new squad.
  • Long snapper Kevin McDermott underwent elbow surgery back in August, and the free agent has been cleared by doctors to resume snapping, tweets NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. The 29-year-old had spent the previous four seasons with the Vikings before getting cut by the team this past August. The UCLA product has appeared in 86 career games.