After a year and a half of rumors, innuendo, and SOURCES:, it finally happened - the Eagles cut Evan Mathis. We thought this would be a good opportunity for all of us to reflect on his time in Philly and his legacy as one of the unique players in recent team history.
Patrick: How do you think Evan will be remembered? Do you think his social media prowess and personality helped (or hurt) his career? And how will you remember him as a player?
Dave: Being cut was always a possibility, and then when you consider the back and forth through the media this week and mandatory mini camp next week, it felt inevitable. Shame it had to end like this. Drew Rosenhaus gets his new contract to get a cut of, hopefully for Mathis it's a deal close to what he was going to get with the Eagles. I doubt it.
Mathis is a terrific player and the Eagles can praise Allen Barbre all they want but they just took a step back on a unit that is already thin. At least when they dumped DeSean they had Maclin. Not drafting a OL the past two years hurts, but it's not an automatic fix, there's no guarantee that whoever they drafted would be any good.
Mark: Clearly it hurts the offensive line to lose Mathis. He seemed like a good citizen generally, but Jason Peters' comments indicated that maybe there was more of a culture problem there than had been evident. Peters is the clear leader of that unit, and if Mathis alienated him, I think that had more to do with his departure than how Chip felt, frankly.
I just don't understand why any player signs with Drew Rosenhaus, after the Terrell Owens and DeSean Jackson fiascos. In all three cases now, the player's reputation and career suffer, and Rosenhaus gets paid. The players may or may not get a bit more; in Mathis' case, he will absolutely make less.
Dave: I don't think Mathis' social media life mattered at all. It's not like he was Chad Johnson where it appeared to be at least as important as his football career. Football came first for Mathis.
Fan reaction on this is interesting. If they had cut him last year, fans would be livid. But in the past few months a sizeable percentage, if not a majority, turned on him for being greedy. It's hard to feel too sorry for Mathis. He knew that he wasn't getting a raise and he kept on it. He's got every right to ask for one, but the team also has every right to dump him. Football players are on at will contracts.
Mark: It's insane that Mathis turned down a million dolllar a year raise last September. He (was) the oldest projected starting guard in the league, and already the 8th highest paid, coming off a year where he missed 7 games due to injury. Delusional.
James: I'm not really going to miss Mathis all that much. Maybe it's because his injuries prepared me for watching Eagles games without him. Maybe it's because he's an offensive guard and, since birth, I've never really had any emotional attachment to offensive guards. Maybe it's because I follow him on Twitter and will still follow him on Twitter. Maybe it's all of these or none of these. Can't really say.
Ultimately, I think Mathis will be remembered fondly as an Eagle. But for me his departure recalls the unceremonious dumping of Terrell Owens, a situation that also involved some similar variables: Drew Rosenhaus, a player still in the earlier stages of a good contract yet, according to age, on the down slope of his playing career, and a want for more money. I'm thankful, obviously, that Mathis has more class. Though I wonder how things would have turned out if we didn't have Pro Football Focus and Mathis didn't have Rosenhaus whispering sweet nothings into his $5 Million ears.
As for Chip Kelly, Mathis' release demonstrates his stubborn philosophy on establishing culture with players who WANT to play the game [his way]. It also illustrates to me one way in which Chip has yet to adapt to the pro game, at least as a GM. No longer can he work directly with players. He needs to learn to be more savvy with the bridges between: namely the agents.
Dave: I want to agree with James about Kelly's stubbornness, but I'm not sure I can in this particular instance. Drew Rosenhaus has made a career out of being a pain in the ass and he and Mathis knew what they were getting into with Kelly, who hasn't hesitated to drop guys. It was very clear that Mathis wasn't getting a new contract, skipping OTAs was only going to accelerate getting to the crossroads. What were Kelly's options? Giving into Mathis' demands weren't an option. Nor was keeping a disgruntled player around. He's been available for trade and no one bit.
Patrick: And to your point, Dave, the rest of the league knows who Mathis' agent is. Why would any team give up draft picks for a player they likely anticipated would be cut? They wouldn't.
Make no mistake about it: this hurts the Eagles in the short term. The immediate replacement will likely be either Allen Barbre or Andrew Gardner, and while both are fine players, it's a tough task to fill in for Mathis. If there's any positive to take out of this situation, it's that whoever starts at left guard will be surrounded by Pro Bowl-level talent.
So what's next? Will the Eagles' line take a noticeable step back this season? Is guard THAT important?
Dave: Yeah, no one gave up anything for him last year when he was younger and not in danger of being cut. A year and an injury later wasn't going to raise his value.
A step back, yes. Mathis is a very good player, whoever replaces him is not. But noticeable? Maybe, maybe not. Like you said presumptive starter Allen Barbre is going to have Peters and Kelce on either side of him, a pretty good place to be. And the team and teammates are very high on him, including Jason Peters, who wasn't a fan of Mathis. Where it will hurt them most is when injuries happen, because rather than slide Barbre over and have say, Matt Tobin come off the bench, they'll have to dig deeper into the depth chart because that would be 6th man is now a starter. But if Peters, Johnson or Kelce are out for a while, they're pretty screwed anyway.
James: Agree with Dave here. Is it better to play an unhappy Evan Mathis at $5-6 Million a year, or a hungrier player with 90% of Mathis' ability and room to grow at a fraction of the cost? Regardless, right now depth is a huge issue.
Dave: Taking the names out of the equation to remove emotional bias, from a coaching standpoint I would rather go with the player who is 90% as good but younger (thus with a possibility to improve), cheaper and well liked by the guys he plays next to than the more expensive, older disgruntled guy who wasn't missed by his direct coworkers.
But that's not really how it works. In reality it's Evan Mathis or 31-year old Allen Barbre. Mathis was disgruntled last year and played well, I don't see a reason why he wouldn't this year.
But Chip's made it clear multiple times now that he would rather suffer a possible short-term loss for what he feels is the greater good of his team. From personal experience I can understand that, sometimes a guy has got to go and if business suffers for a little while because you're shorthanded, then that's the way it has to be. It's easy to say "well Chip should have tried to work it out" but we don't know what happened behind closed doors.
As James said earlier and has been written about before, now that Chip is both head coach and the head of personnel, he is in a sticky situation. His actions and words on the practice field reflect off of it, and vice versa. The front office can't play hardball while the coach tries to sooth the player and possibly rectify the situation. It's one of the reasons why a coach who is also a GM rarely works.
Mark: I think it's kind of funny that so many people say both of these things:
1) Chip is being pissy about anyone who doesn't doesn't agree, he takes it too personally; and
2) Chip should have said "Fuck you Mathis, you signed a contract, you're gonna play at this salary whether you like it or not."
#2 seems very pissy to me.
Dave: They're both pissy. "You signed a contract" only works as an arguement when management honors contracts, which they don't in the NFL. If they did, Mathis would still be on the team. The lack of fully guaranteed money continues to screw players over. What a waste of time the lockout was.
Patrick: On your earlier point, Dave, I'm not sure Chip being the de facto GM makes much of a difference. So far we've seen that players who take their contract grievances public all end up walking out the door.
To date I don't think we've seen a situation where Chip's had to say, "Sorry to see you go... Management, am I right?" It seems like there's a line that he doesn't want crossed, and being the boss means that absolutely no one crosses it.