The first week of Eagles OTA’s is already well on it’s way, and still no sign of Pro-Bowl guard Evan Mathis. This came at the surprise of no one considering he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus have been demanding a pay raise for a little over a year now. While it may seem like a small issue right now, it could get very ugly if it continues into the next month when Mandatory mini-camps take place.
The Eagles guard situation is already complicated with the team failing to find a replacement for Todd Herremans in free agency or the draft. Sure, veteran lineman Allen Barbre was very solid with the limited reps he received back in 2013. But are you 100% confident in a 31 year-old journeyman who missed an entire season in 2014 due to injury?
Lets say the Eagles trade Mathis for a draft pick. Who’s your in-house starter? The candidates at this point would have to be either Matt Tobin or Andrew Gardner. The coaching staff remains pretty high on them even when they struggled after all of the injuries the O-line took in the early season. Remember how much fun they were to watch when the Eagles couldn’t score from the 1-yard line against the 49ers? Maybe there are some rookie free agents like Brett Boyko or Malcolm Bunche that could possibly surprise, but most of those guys are afterthoughts to even make the team.
The other issue with that scenario is that no one even wants to trade for Mathis. When asked about the rumors of Mathis being available for trade Kelly replied by saying, “Evan Mathis has been available for trade for two years, and there have been no offers.”
So why has there been no offers for Mathis? He’s been voted to the Pro-Bowl for two straight years, and who could forget that Pro Football Focus rated him the best offensive guard in the NFL from 2011-2013. A very similar situation was the issue the Eagles had with Desean Jackson last offseason. The Eagles tried desperately to trade him, but found no offers. This was probably because GMs around the NFL knew that the Eagles wanted no part with Jackson anymore, and refused to listen to offers because they knew the Eagles would eventually just cut him.
However, there really doesn’t seem to be any character issues with Mathis like there was for Jackson. Aside from maybe a few smart comments from him on Twitter, there hasn’t been anything that says Mathis is a bad guy or harmful to the locker-room. If there was and we just don’t know about it, then Chip would have probably gotten rid of Mathis before any of us realized what even happened.
Thinking on a positive note, maybe the reason why no offers have come in is because the asking price is too high. The Eagles know how valuable he is and want to see how much they can get for him before they commit any more money to a 33 year-old o-lineman. While the Eagles are pretty tight cap-wise after there huge offseason, adding an additional 2 or 3 million to Mathis’ deal wouldn’t hurt them too badly.
Bottom line: the Eagles can’t mess this situation up. Mathis is too good and too valuable to just get rid of without anything in return. Either get a lot of value in exchange for him, or pay him and let his play earn the money. Besides, we all remember the last time the Eagles got rid of a key offensive talent for nothing.