On the Ball: Matthews signs

With Clay Matthews III's five-year deal that's worth more than $13 million, the Packers have about 36 hours to get B.J. Raji signed.

Packers President Mark Murphy joked at Thursday's shareholders meeting that they had better get things wrapped up quickly so Russ Ball could get to work signing the team's first-round draft picks.

Apparently, Ball had enough time to get part of his job done.

The Packers signed the second of their first-round picks, outside linebacker Clay Matthews III, the team announced Thursday evening. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was the first to report the deal.

A league source confirmed the signing to Packer Report just before the team announcement, and said the 26th pick of the draft received a five-year contract that could be worth as much as $13.25 million.

That leaves just B.J. Raji, the ninth overall pick, unsigned among the Packers' eight picks. The first practice of training camp is at 2 p.m. Saturday.

To make room on the roster, the Packers released undrafted rookie receiver Jamarko Simmons. Simmons was sidelined toward the end of organized team activities and the minicamp with a back injury.

Green Bay gave up its second- and third-round picks as well as the third-round selection obtained in the Brett Favre trade in a deal with New England to move back into the first round to select Matthews. He moved into USC's starting lineup early in his senior season and started 10 games. A second-team all-Pac 10 selection and an honorable mention All-America by Pro Football Weekly, Matthews totaled 56 tackles, nine tackles for losses, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal as a senior. For the third time, he was USC's special teams player of the year.

Matthews will compete with Jeremy Thompson to be the starting right outside linebacker. His father, Clay Matthews Jr., played linebacker for 19 seasons for Cleveland and Atlanta, and his grandfather, Clay Sr., played four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers.

With Matthews under wraps, the Packers have about 36 hours to get a deal done with Raji. The same agency that represents Matthews — David Dunn at Athletes First — represents Raji, so some constructive talks likely have taken place. It also will help that the No. 7 pick in the draft, Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, signed on Thursday. According to reports, Heyward-Bey received a five-year deal worth at least $38.25 million with $23.5 million guaranteed.

The Packers haven't had a major holdout since Ross Verba missed about three weeks in 1997.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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