With every off season, Eagles fans have learned not to take anything for granted. The eagles never seem to sign the players back that seem to be "gotta keep him", while they will sometimes sign or resign players that simply leave us guessing.
And in all that time, we keep looking at the track record and figuring that someone must know what they are doing. Well, after 2011 with the "don't keep anyone" and "sign a bunch of new free agents" ended up with pretty much the nightmare of a season we all feared, we are no longer as eager to give Andy, Howie, and Joe the benefit of the doubt.
As such, we are all eager and willing to share our thoughts about what we SHOULD do this offseason: namely get LINEBACKERS.
And to focus on linebackers, we have to clean the "to do" list of anything which will distract us. Namely address WR Jackson (done!), LG Mathis, and DT Landri.
What I am about to suggest may sound ludicrous to some, and that's fine if it makes you think and argue intelligently. It may sound sane to others. But I believe that the eagles MAY NOT RESIGN Evan Mathis!
Evan Mathis did not arrive to the Eagles with any fanfare, pomp, or headlined media coverage. He was drafted in the 3rd round by the Carolina Panthers, and played off and on for 6 years with Carolina, Miami, and finally Cincinatti, before being cut by the Bengals and arriving at Philadelphia on July 31, 2011.... as a short term fix for the slow starting Watkins and the still injured Winston Justice. Mathis has played in 58 games in seven NFL seasons, making starts at both the right and left guard positions.
The eagles like his flexibility at both guard and possibly tackle slot, and was inserted immediately. His play flourished under the coaching of Mudd, and was so outstanding that the Eagles opted to migrate another strong guard, Todd Herremans, to right tackle to keep Mathis in the starting line.
The results were impressive on a line with two rookies starting (Kelce at center, Watkins at right guard), a new starter at LG Mathis, and Todd Herremans at a new RT position. In fact, the results were so dramatic, that the eagles were ranked the second best offensive line in the NFL in 2011 - and only one player - Jason Peters - had played that position for the eagles the previous year.
This year Mathis wants to and deserves to be paid, and paid well. Nicks, at New Orleans the blue chip guard standard, is holding out for a $56M contract. Mathis will not be looking for that kind of money, but he will be looking for a substantial pay raise.
But the eagles front office may have an alternate plan. If they could hit the bullseye from the draft with 2 starters, and pick up a guy in free agency who struggled to start in 3 other teams, could they be planning to repeat history?
Let's face it - a 5th through 7th round pick up in the 2012 draft will not be able to command anywhere NEAR the amount of salary that Evan Mathis truly deserves, but may be all the eagles are willing to spend on the guy who lines up next to Jason Peters. It may very well be that anyone with a pulse and anything to offer the NFL will excel sandwiched between Peters and Kelce...
Mudd converted the offensive line from dog to top dog without an offseason. His unit had not played together until week 4 - and finished 2nd best in the NFL.
What if he has a full offseason, new late rounders to work with, new 2nd tier free agents who are just as hungry as Mathis was coming to the eagles?
Not every player Mudd looks at ends up like Evan Mathis. Some go the way of Ryan Harris, and simply do not show the team enough to remain an eagle.
But in the year that faces us, where not only every body on the roster must contribute, but every dollar under the cap must be productive as well, that is likely one of the places generating serious debate in the eagles front office.
I like Evan Mathis. He's gutsy, a workaholic, and fought hard in 2011 offseason to earn a spot on the eagles roster and be paid for that effort. But it's quite likely that as a result, he's now overqualified his resume for the job we have on our roster.
Don't get me wrong. I want Evan Mathis back. I like who he is, what he brings to our team, and the fact that he's got enough passion to do the right things even when the team seems to be falling apart.
But if we have to drop some ballast - I think our front office will balk at cutting his paycheck in 2012.
You heard it here first!