Strategic. That might be the best word to use to describe the Dallas Cowboys free agency moves so far. They took hits losing All-Pro cornerback Byron, starting defensive tackle Maliek Collins, and strong safety starter Jeff Heath on the open market. However, they quickly rebounded by signing veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as well as Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to beef up the interior defensive line. However, there’s another veteran defender on the open market that could add value to the linebacker position.
Clay Matthews has been one of the better linebackers in the NFL since his arrival in 2009 when he was drafted 26th overall by the Green Bay Packers, where he spent his first 10 seasons under new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. During that span, Matthews was a six-time Pro Bowler and was selected to three All-Pro teams. In 2019, Matthews had eight sacks for the Los Angeles Rams which was his highest total since 2014, his last Pro Bowl/All-Pro season.
Over his 11-year career, Matthews has amassed 519 tackles, 91.5 sacks, six interceptions, 43 passes defended, 17 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and three defensive touchdowns. Also, his durability has been solid playing in 156 out of a possible 176 games and logging 150 starts.
This could make sense for several reasons. For one, as mentioned earlier, Matthews spent 10 years under McCarthy and they were the most productive of his career. That familiarity can’t be undervalued. Second, being 33 years old (34 by the start of the season) means he more than likely will be cost-efficient, which is the Cowboy’s motto in free agency. Lastly, even though veteran linebacker Sean Lee resigned for another year, he would be added insurance behind Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, especially considering the latter had his 2019 season cut short in November due to a neck injury.
Matthews has traditionally been the most effective as an outsider linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, and although the Cowboys will remain in their base 4-3, there will be flexibility in the looks they give under Nolan.
The Cowboy’s interest in Matthews could be minimal or nonexistent, however, considering his history with McCarthy and still playing at a relatively high level it may be something to consider.
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