Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis (69) during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly made more news on Thursday as the team released two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.
The 11-year veteran only played in nine games last season as he suffered an MCL sprain in Philadelphia’s opening game against Jacksonville. But he returned for the second half of the season and played well enough to not only earn a trip to the Pro Bowl, but also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ top guard from 2011 through 2013 and was the second best last year. He was also a First Team All-Pro selection as recently as 2013 and started 56 games for the Eagles after being signed as a free agent in 2011.
Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer is on a mission to drive competition across the roster, so adding one of the top guards to an already talented offensive line has to at least be tempting. He has also played at a high level in the Eagles’ zone-blocking system, which while not the same as the one the Browns may run at times, is at least similar enough that it wouldn’t be a foreign concept to Mathis.
So what’s the problem?
For starters, Mathis has played the majority of his career at left guard, a spot currently held down quite capably by second-year player Joel Bitonio. Mathis has played 15 games at right guard, a position where he could easily push incumbent John Greco, but those games came back in 2006 when he was with Carolina. And if he wasn’t willing to make things work in Philadelphia, would Mathis be willing to come to Cleveland if it means a position switch?
There is also the matter of how much Mathis believes he is worth. Mathis has been haggling with Philadelphia over a new contract and the difference of opinion between the two sides is reportedly a major factor in the team’s decision to cut ties with Mathis.
The Eagles have reportedly been trying to trade Mathis for more than a year, but have not found any takers.
“We have never had an offer for Evan so there’s nothing to take,” Kelly said according to NFL.com. “Evan’s been available to trade for two years now and we’ve never had an offer for him. And that’s through their agent and him. They’ve asked us if he can renegotiate a contract and see what he can get and we’ve obliged him with that, but we’ve never had an offer on him.”
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Mathis was due to make $5.5 million in 2015, the third year of a five-year deal, and with the Browns having a shade over $22 million in salary cap space (third most in the NFL) money would not be a problem. We’d like to think that part of Farmer’s plan in holding onto so much money is to have the flexibility to pick up a player like Mathis if the opportunity arises and the team is interested.
Adding Mathis would not only increase the talent level along Cleveland’s offensive line, but would add yet another layer of security in case a lineman goes down with an injury. It’s not often that a player as talented as Mathis suddenly hits the open market and the Browns are in a great position to move on Mathis if they want to.
When you add it all up, Farmer has to at least give Mathis’ agent a call about making the move to Orange and Brown.
Do you think the Browns should pursue Evan Mathis?