CAUTION: COMPENSATORY DRAFT PICK DISCUSSION TRIGGER WARNING.
I know some people get annoyed with nerdy comp pick talk so if you’re one of those, well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
As it currently stands, the Eagles are projected to receive two compensatory picks in the 2020 NFL Draft for losing both Nick Foles and Golden Tate in free agency. Here’s a look at Philadelphia’s comp pick cancellation chart via Over The Cap:
There used to be some thought that the Eagles would cut at least one of Andrew Sendejo or L.J. Fort so that the team wouldn’t have to lose the fourth-round pick they’d otherwise receive for Jordan Hicks signing with the Cardinals.
That clearly won’t be happening, though. Sendejo is a lock to make the team as the Eagles’ third safety. He’s played well and he’s also been praised by the coaching staff. Fort is also a lock to make the Eagles’ roster, especially with Kamu Grugier-Hill missing time with an MCL injury. Fort looked good in the first preseason game and he received $1.9 million guaranteed when the Eagles signed him as a “target free agent” (Howie Roseman’s words) back in March.
Realistically, then, the Eagles will be receiving two comp picks at most in 2020. But it might end up only being one.
That’s where JMatt comes in.
If the 49ers don’t keep Matthews on their 53-man roster until Week 10, he will no longer count towards the Eagles’ comp pick formula. This means the Eagles would lose the 2020 fourth-round comp pick they’re currently projected to receive for losing Tate. The only comp pick the Eagles would get is the 2020 third-round selection for losing Foles.
So, is there a real chance that JMatt actually gets cut? Unfortunately for the Eagles, the answer to that question is “Yes.”
Some recent 53-man roster projections from Niners Nation and ESPN both have the 49ers keeping six receivers with none of them being Matthews. It’s not like he’s hard to cut from a financial perspective; the 49ers can clear just over $1.4 million in cap space compared to only $300,000 in dead money by releasing Matthews.
On the bright side, Matthews does have some factors working in his favor.
First of all, the 49ers don’t need to cut JMatt to protect themselves from losing a comp pick. They’ve already signed too many free agents to qualify for that.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t rule out the possibility the team could keep seven receivers. The 49ers are dealing with some injuries at that position with starting slot receiver Trent Taylor expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a broken pinky toe. Marquise Goodwin also recently suffered an undisclosed lower body injury.
Moreover, JMatt offers experience at a position where San Fran doesn’t have a lot of that. The circled column below shows years spent in the NFL:
As an added bonus, I can’t imagine it hurts that Matthews is related to 49ers legend Jerry Rice. Matthews’ mother is Rice’s cousin. It’d sure be nice if Rice could pull some strings for JMatt, if necessary.
Matthews failing to make the 49ers’ roster is hardly the end of the world for the Eagles. But it’s not insignificant, either. A fourth-round pick is a valuable asset. For example: 2018 fourth-round selections Avonte Maddox (potential starting cornerback) and Josh Sweat (rotational defensive end) are expected to be important contributors to Jim Schwartz’s defense this season.
Draft picks are especially valuable to an Eagles team that’s only made 10 selections over the past two years. That figure is tied for fewest in the NFL. Philadelphia needs to restock an aging roster — which ESPN ranked dead last in under-25 years old talent — that now has an expensive franchise quarterback contract on the books.
And so the Eagles will be rooting for Matthews to make the 49ers’ roster. A fourth-round pick hangs in the balance!