Packers' offseason roster review: LB hinges on where Clay Matthews plays


GREEN BAY, Wis. — This is the seventh in a series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ offseason roster by position as they head into organized team activity practices, which begin Wednesday.

Previous installments: Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line.

Next up: Linebackers

Who they added: Jake Ryan (fourth-round pick), Tavarus Dantzler (undrafted rookie), Jermauria Rasco (undrafted rookie), James Vaughters (undrafted rookie), Josh Francis (street free agent).

Who’s gone: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore.

Key holdovers: Sam Barrington, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott, Carl Bradford, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Adrian Hubbard, Joe Thomas.

Roster spots likely available: Nine or 10.

Competition: The way coach Mike McCarthy was talking at the draft, the Packers intend to keep Matthews at inside linebacker at least part of the time. McCarthy said Matthews, who had never played inside on a regular basis before the second half of last season, has been working with both linebacker spots during the offseason program. That's the way the Packers finished last season after they reduced Hawk's role and benched Jones. If it stays that way then the Packers don't have as much work to do to find another inside linebacker. Barrington is the likely starter at the other inside spot, and then the rookie Ryan can ease his way in. The more Matthews plays on the inside, the more it opens up playing opportunities for Neal and Perry in the spot opposite Peppers. Elliott beat out Hubbard last season for perhaps the last outside linebacker spot, but the two former undrafted free agents will have to battle it out again this year.

Notable: After spending almost all of the offseason at outside linebacker, both Bradford and Palmer moved inside for the final week of the preseason. However, neither ended up playing in a regular-season game last year. Palmer sustained a knee injury in the preseason finale and spent all of last season on injured reserve. Bradford made the 53-man roster but was inactive for every game.