The biggest story at Philadelphia Eagles training camp on Saturday wasn’t anything that happened during practice. Rather, the focus was predictably on the fallout from the Eagles’ decision to trade Jordan Matthews to the Buffalo Bills.
As you can imagine, a number of Eagles players were bummed that Matthews is gone, including starting quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz was one of several players who took Matthews out to dinner last night after news of the trade broke. He also drove his former teammate to the airport.
Here’s what Wentz had to say about JMatt after practice on Saturday, via ESPN:
"On the personal side, it's tough" an emotional Wentz said as he was coming off the practice field. "This is my first time experiencing this with someone that's one of my best friends. Seeing him yesterday, it's tough on him, too. It's kind of out of the blue."
Again, it’s hardly surprising to see this somber reaction to Matthews being traded. He worked very hard. He was a fun, engaging personality. He seemed like a genuinely good dude to have in the locker room.
It’s never ideal to make a move that upsets the team’s franchise quarterback. Matthews wasn’t just one of Wentz’s best friends — he was also one of his favorite targets on the field.
But just as Carson said, the NFL is a business. JMatt is hardly the first well-liked player to be traded. The mood may have been “down” in the Eagles locker room on Saturday, as Malcolm Jenkins described it, but these guys are professionals. There’s a job to be done and they’ll get over it with time.
And while the timing of Matthews’ trade may have been a surprise, it’s not like there was anything ensuring his long-term future in Philadelphia. He’s a free agent at the end of this season. There’s no guarantee the Eagles would or could have re-signed him.
Maybe I lack the proper “emotional intelligence” but I think some of what’s been said/written about the locker room missing Matthews is being overstated. There’s no doubt the players are really bummed. I just have a hard time believing it’ll have some kind of meaningful long-term impact on the team.
Is Wentz going to throw an interception in Week 3 because he was too busy thinking about how sad he is that JMatt isn’t here anymore? I don’t think so.
Let’s assume the Eagles don’t make this trade. And let’s rightfully assume the cornerbacks are getting torched all game long. At least Wentz feels good because JMatt is still on the team, right? Doubtful.
Wentz is a super competitive dude who ultimately wants to win. You don’t decide to become a professional football player with the primary objective of making friends.
Furthermore, NFL franchises don’t build winning teams by solely operating on emotional decisions. The Matthews trade wasn’t personal. Howie Roseman acknowledged it was a tough deal to make. But the Eagles had an opportunity to improve the team and they took it.
The mood in the locker room will eventually improve, especially if the team is winning. And acquiring a talented, young cornerback could make success more easily achievable.