The Green Bay Packers undoubtedly will be paying out several huge contracts in the next year or so, and it appears as though outside linebacker Clay Matthews is OK with waiting until next offseason to extend his deal.
Matthews is among the key players likely to get contract extensions in the relatively near future, along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Greg Jennings and defensive lineman B.J. Raji.
If the Packers decide they can fit all four in their budget, the combined guaranteed money could approach $100 million, with the total value of the contracts twice as much. General manager Ted Thompson will have to decide soon on Jennings, who is in the final year of his contract and will be a free agent next offseason.
However, Rodgers also could be a priority even though he has three seasons remaining on his deal because he’s a quarterback and is grossly underpaid as the NFL’s reigning MVP.
Raji also has three years left on his contract, though the final season is voidable, and Matthews has two years, so both are likely to be going into the final season of their deals next year. That’s usually when the Packers approach core players about contract extensions.
“I have two years left,” Matthews said, “and if I’ve learned anything being in this organization is they take care of their players (from) the draft. You look at guys like Aaron, Josh Sitton, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, they take care of their players. I just need to focus on this year and let my agent handle that. As of right now, I’m happy.”
Back to practice
For the first time this summer, the Packers had two consecutive days off from practice Friday and Saturday.
It’s rare in an NFL training camp, but the Packers aren’t treating this portion of the schedule like training camp.
Even though practices remain open to the public the next two weeks, coach Mike McCarthy has transitioned his team into a regular-season mode. It began after Thursday’s second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
On Friday, players came to Lambeau Field for meetings and reviewed the game film before taking Saturday off. They return to the practice field for workouts Sunday (11:15 a.m.), Monday (11:15 a.m.) and Tuesday (11 a.m.) before they travel to Cincinnati on Wednesday for Thursday’s game against the Bengals.
This mirrors a normal regular-season week following a Sunday game and leading into another Sunday game. In that seven-day schedule, players come in for film review on Monday and have Tuesday off. Practice then begins for the upcoming opponent Wednesday and continues through Friday.
“It’s important for us to get on the in-season schedule this week,” McCarthy said Friday.
The Packers will follow the same schedule after the Bengals game and leading into the Aug. 30 preseason finale against Kansas City.
Greg Van Roten’s uphill battle to make the Packers’ 53-man roster didn’t get any easier last week after the team brought in veteran offensive lineman Reggie Wells.
Over the last three weeks, however, Van Roten has shown there’s more to the former University of Pennsylvania standout than just being the undrafted Ivy League player the Packers picked up following Charlie Peprah’s release last month.
At 6-foot-3, 303 pounds, Van Roten was an undersized but productive three-year starting tackle for the Quakers. Van Roten has switched to guard and been a pleasant surprise in camp with a team-high 24 wins in 31 one-on-one pass rush drills.
The addition of the aging, yet versatile Wells continued to cloud the Packers’ foggy backup offensive line situation, but Van Roten, 22, also brings something to the table.
Recruited to Penn as a prospect at center, Van Roten made the switch to tackle during spring ball of his freshman year. That’s where he stayed with the exception of starting a handful of games at left guard last year because of injuries.
“I knew I was going to have to play guard and show them I could snap because I wanted to have a chance,” Van Roten said. “I’m not big enough to be a tackle, especially in the NFL, but even in college, I was a little undersized. I just need to be able to play left guard, right guard and center is one of those things where it doesn’t hurt you to know it. It all kind of adds to your stock. You have to make it hard for them to cut you. You can’t be a specialist.”
Despite his success in practice, Van Roten hasn’t seen too much time during the preseason with Wells, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Tommie Draheim, Don Barclay and Sampson Genus all getting second-team reps ahead of him on the interior line.
“Especially coming from a I-AA school, you’re not really sure what to expect when you get here,” Van Roten said. “Ivy League kids are smart. Guys here are football smart. It’s really impressive the knowledge in this locker room. Even though the O-line is relatively young, you have guys like (Josh) Sitton and Jeff Saturday who are just a wealth of knowledge up front.”
— Rob Demovsky and Weston Hodkiewicz contributed to this report.