The Packers’ pass rushers have improved over the last couple of weeks. That being said, there is always room for improvement. Za’darius Smith is out for the foreseeable future, so the Packers could look at a few guys to add some depth to their pass rush unit.
Olivier Vernon is a nine-year NFL veteran with pro bowl caliber seasons. He is coming off a solid season where he posted 9 sacks and 28 pressures in 14 games for the Cleveland Brown. Unfortunately for Vernon, he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in week 17 of 2020 and missed the playoffs.
Despite that solid season, Vernon was not resigned by the Browns. Vernon’s price tag may have been too high for a player coming off an Achilles tear. He is still not on a roster four weeks into the season, so his price tag will have dropped quite a lot.
Vernon is no longer at a pro bowler level, but he would still offer the Packers good depth at the edge rusher position. Doing so also takes the pressure off of Chauncey Rivers and Jonathan Garvin, especially if either Preston Smith or Rashan Gary go down.
Clayborn is a ten-year NFL veteran, playing for four different teams throughout his career. Clayborn is not a starting-caliber player, but he doesn’t have to be. He would add nice depth to the Packers’ edge-rushing group. A big plus with Clayborn is that he’s been relatively healthy for the last six seasons. He’s only missed seven games throughout that time frame.
Clayborn notched 3.5 sacks and 15 pressures last season while only playing 38% of the defensive snaps for the Cleveland Browns. He would bring championship DNA to the edge-rushing group from his time in New England. During that championship run, Clayborn notched 1 sack and 5 pressures in three games.
This is the homer in me speaking here, but having Clay Matthews back on the team would be incredible. He would add depth to the edge-rushing group and add depth to the ILB group, as he has experience playing both positions. The only question mark is, does Matthews still have it after over a year being out of the game.
Matthews did not play for any team in the 2020 season, despite having a great 2019 campaign. He posted 8 sacks and 28 pressures for the Rams while playing 13 games in 2019.
We already know that Rodgers and Cobb would love to have Clay Matthews back, as evidenced by their Instagram stories a few weeks ago. It just makes more sense now. Za’darius is out for the year, and Krys Barnes has been injured the last couple of weeks. Adding a player who played both positions (both at a pro bowl level) could become invaluable down the road.
Rob Gronkowski has shown that you can come back strong even after an entire season away from the game. (Gronk was much younger when he came back than Matthews is now). Gronk was 31 years old when he came back. Matthews is currently 35 years old.
More Potential Pass Rushers
Click here to see two more potential pass rushers the Packers could target.