- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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You never like to say this, because egos and money, etc..., but this Evan Mathis situation with the Philadelphia Eagles feels like one that should blow over. According to this account from Jeff McLane, it's all common and understandable stuff. The guy on his left got a big new contract, the guy on his right got a big new contract, so Mathis goes to the team and asks if maybe he could get a big new contract, too. Team says no, we like your contract and you should, too, but why don't you go out and see if there's another team who would take you and maybe give you that contract? Research reveals that said team does not exist, and Mathis ends up back where he started. No harm, no foul, as Eagles coach Chip Kelly indicates in Jeff's story:
"I think that's just the nature of what our league is like," Kelly said about Mathis' contract demands. "In professional sports, there is a short amount of time that guys have to play this game, and they're trying to get what they can, and I certainly understand where they're coming from."
So yeah, good. It's nice when everyone understands each other. Too bad for Mathis that he can't get his raise, but the market bears what it bears, and left guard isn't left tackle or center, so Jason Peters and Jason Kelce get taken care of and Mathis doesn't. Way of the world. The Eagles can argue that Mathis is replaceable, and they can use Mathis' own story to do it. He was an afterthought depth signing in 2011 after they brought their headline-making spending spree to a simmer. He surprised them by winning a starting spot in camp.
But he's also taken full advantage of his opportunity. He's played at a Pro Bowl level. He was the only member of the offensive line that managed to stay healthy during the 2012 meltdown season. And if you buy the old theory on continuity as vital to offensive line success, you have to think Mathis matters. Yes, Peters is a freak athlete and Kelce is a beast at center, but is it safe to assume you could replace the guy between them with Allen Barbre and see no drop-off? Possible, sure, but not safe to assume.
The Eagles pay Mathis well and would seem to have no incentive to adjust his contract two years in. Telling him he was free to seek a trade might not be a sign they want him gone, but rather a sign of their confidence that they're already paying him as much as or more than the market thinks he's worth. He's a great player who has the misfortune to play a position that doesn't get valued as highly as other positions do. He's also a smart guy, and the Eagles likely figured he'd understand this whole kerfuffle for what it is. Assuming that's the case, all goes on as before.
But the idea that they might have been willing to let Mathis walk out the door is enough to at least give you pause. After what the Eagles went through on the offensive line in 2012, and after having the whole line healthy and clicking together at a high level in 2013, this is a team that should appreciate the value of keeping things together up front. I'm not saying they need to bend over backwards to make Mathis happy. What I am saying is that the Eagles have a very good thing going with this offensive line right now, and I don't think I'd mess wit it.
602dPhil Sheridan and Mike Triplett