Should Clay Matthews Be Targeted by the Detroit Lions?
The Detroit Lions have revamped their defensive line and pass rush for the 2020 season.
After last year’s dreadful performance regarding pressuring the quarterback, an overhaul was necessary.
Devon Kennard, Damon Harrison, Mike Daniels and A’Shawn Robinson are no longer on Detroit's roster.
Even though none were necessarily known for their pass-rushing prowess, they were key cogs in the 2019 defense.
Detroit general manager Bob Quinn added some talent along the line as well, including rookie Julian Okwara, Danny Shelton and Nick Williams.
However, even with the offseason additions, is it enough to at least make the Lions' pass-rush department an average unit?
Currently, at Kennard’s former JACK backer role, the Lions have two unproven roster members now manning the position in Austin Bryant and Okwara.
A case can be made that more off-ball linebackers, like free agent acquisition Jamie Collins, will see plenty of snaps on the line as well.
Remember, Collins has never really been a full-time edge player either. Neither has any of the other stack linebackers.
That once again leaves the Lions void of any proven stand-up EDGE rushers.
In a perfect world, Okwara will step right in and make an immediate impact.
Unfortunately, it’s also not wise to have super-high expectations for a mid-round rookie.
That leads us to the free agent Clay Matthews.
The 34-year-old EDGE rusher is well past his prime at this stage in his career.
In saying that, Matthews still was able to contribute on the Los Angeles Rams' roster in 2019.
Matthews even out-produced Kennard and defensive end Trey Flowers in terms of sacks.
Sacks aren’t always the best statistic to evaluate a player’s ability, especially considering the level of talent surrounding Matthews in 2019. But, his sack numbers can’t be ignored, either.
Looking at total pressures, Matthews actually had the same amount of pressures as Kennard on 136 fewer pass-rushing snaps in 2019.
Going by Pro Football Focus’ pass-rushing productivity metric, Matthews again was above both of the Lions' top EDGE defenders.
As a scheme fit, head coach Matt Patricia likes versatile players who can play on and off the ball.
Matthews checks that box as well.
In 2014 and 2015 with the Green Bay Packers, Matthews predominantly played middle linebacker.
He didn’t have nearly as much success there as he did on the edge. But, there is at least some experience moving around the formation.
Ultimately, with every aging free agent, it all comes down to the price tag.
With Matthews still on the open market and a little long in the tooth, he shouldn’t be demanding all that much money.
The Lions need all the help they can get generating pressure, and they have some available cap space to make a move.
Heading into his 12th season, Matthews is not what he used to be, but he still has some gas left in the tank.
If everything goes as planned and one of the younger EDGE defenders steps up to the plate, no harm, no foul.
If not, Matthews could still provide additional help and a solid veteran presence at the JACK backer spot.