Pretty much every household name from the Andy Reid Era is gone from the Philadelphia Eagles. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans are all gone. Will G Evan Mathis be added to that list this offseason? It was reported a couple weeks ago that Mathis was on the trading block, a move that baffled me and almost everyone else related to the Eagles. A bunch of teams apparently showed interest in him, but nothing really came of it and he remained an Eagle for a little while longer.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago and the Eagles announced that they are ramping up their efforts to unload Mathis from the roster. But, it seems like the trade market for Mathis isn’t really there, or at least to the liking of the Eagles. I’m not exactly sure what they’d be asking for him, but I can’t imagine he’d equal more than a fourth round pick or so considering his age. He’s apparently projected to be the oldest starting offensive guard in the NFL next year, which obviously suggests that he may be in his final years in the league.
It was then reported that the Eagles might just end up releasing Mathis if they can’t find a suitor in the trade market, which seems like an even stranger move. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he’s worthless anymore. Yes, at age 33, he’s not really going to be getting better at this point, but he’s been a Pro Bowl guard the past two years and was an All-Pro selection in 2013. He’s arguably been one of the best guards in the league during his tenure with the Eagles. To me, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to get rid of a guy who’s been this talented for this long, even if he is getting old.
I do realize that the Eagles are both running out of cap space and are looking to get younger all across the roster, but not all of their moves have really suggested that they’re 100% sticking to that plan. DeMarco Murray is actually older than McCoy and is getting just as much money over the next few years (and much more guaranteed money) as him. Foles and Maclin were both young players. The Eagles also shelled out tons of money to a partially unproven cornerback in Byron Maxwell and traded for an overpaid, ACL-tearing machine in Sam Bradford. So Mathis, who’s been very durable minus the small strip of games he missed last year, doesn’t deserve to be traded.
Now, I’m not suggesting Chip Kelly’s plan is bad or that I don’t believe in it, because I do. I definitely believe in him. But it doesn’t mean questions can’t be raised, and trading or releasing Mathis would seem like the strangest and least-worthwhile moves of this offseason. The Eagles have just $7.6 million in cap space left according to Overthecap, and Evan Mathis counts for $6.5 million against the cap. The team would save $4.5 million of that if they released him, but since it seems like they’re mostly done with moves this offseason, I’d be surprised if they’d really need that extra money right now. If money is really the issue with Mathis, I would be even more dumbfounded with trading him.
Mathis is one of the fan favorites and actually one of the best players on the team. At some point, trading away a bunch of Pro Bowl players for various excuses is only going to get you so far, especially in the short term. The biggest reason for keeping Mathis is the fact that they’re already looking for another starting guard after they released Herremans earlier in the offseason. It seems likely at this point that they’d be in the market to draft a guard early on, but with other big needs still at positions like safety and quarterback, are they really in a good position to draft a guard that high?
The current guards on the Eagles roster, other than Mathis, are as follows: Josh Andrews, Andrew Gardner, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin and Julian Vandervelde. Tobin, Gardner and Kelly all have experience starting, but none of these guys really shocked the world with their talent. Tobin is okay and Gardner is probably the best option among them, but I really wouldn’t want to see two of those five guys starting in Week 1. I don’t care what running backs the Eagles have, they will no doubt struggle to run the ball (and block in general) with that starting offensive line. If LeSean McCoy, one of the best running backs in the league, struggled to run behind a battered Eagles offensive line, I don’t see Murray faring much better. And Sam Bradford’s career has been plagued by terrible offensive lines that prevent him from showing his true talent, so I don’t think he’d perform very well with a bunch of backup-quality players starting on the line. Kelly did announce that he expects Allen Barbre (who can play both guard and tackle) to replace Herremans next year, but he missed almost the entire season last year with an ankle injury and is already 30. Replacing someone in his 30s with another, less talented guy in his 30s isn’t an upgrade.
I appreciate that Kelly is trying to do whatever it takes to turn this team around and get them to the next level, but no one can turn around a team in just one offseason. It just can’t happen. They’ve already made enough changes. At this point, getting rid of Mathis would severely hurt their offense no matter who they got to replace him. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him gone, but I will in no way be happy or advocate for it. It’s just not the right move.