Addressing the Eagles’ decision to release Evan Mathis, head coach Chip Kelly told reporters today that the team made the move after receiving several requests from the guard and his agent to cut Mathis.
According to Mathis himself, however, he asked the team to let him go back in March if there were no plans to rework his contract, but hasn’t asked to be released since then. And, to his knowledge, agent Drew Rosenhaus hasn’t done so either, writes Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com. Mosher cites a separate source who confirms that neither Mathis nor anyone from his camp has asked the Eagles for the lineman’s release since March.
“I would have played under the contract and been fine — like last year,” Mathis said. “I can block stuff out and not let it be a distraction. I missed voluntary stuff, but I was still working hard. It doesn’t mean I was going to be a bad apple. I would never do that.”
As I noted earlier today, Kelly’s explanation of Mathis’ release raises a few questions. For instance, the Eagles apparently wanted to wait until after free agency and the draft before making a decision on Mathis, presumably to assess their offensive line depth at that time. But Mathis remained on the roster for several weeks following the draft until he was finally cut. Had he been released in March, he could’ve sought a new NFL home when teams still had plenty of cap space and were still figuring out their rosters.
Additionally, by simply saying the team granted Mathis’ release because he and his agent asked for it, Kelly glosses over the fact that the Eagles held most of the leverage, and could’ve easily held onto Mathis if they wanted to. I compared it to the Adrian Peterson situation in Minnesota, where Peterson has returned to the Vikings even though the club didn’t grant his reported requests to trade him or rework his contract. Like Peterson, Mathis would’ve eventually had to report to his team if he hoped to play this season.
In any case, Mathis is no longer an Eagle, and he tells Mosher that he had been hoping to restructure his contract to include more incentives. In other words, he didn’t simply want more money — he wanted the opportunity to earn more money if he was one of the league’s best guards.
“Why not have a couple of years where I could at least have the opportunity to achieve it?” Mathis said. “That’s what I was proposing … that I had to be absolutely elite to earn it. One hundred percent that’s all we were trying to do the last few months.”
Incentive-laden deals aren’t as common for offensive linemen, whose performance can’t be judged quite as easily as that of an offensive skill-position player. Still, we’ll see if Mathis’ next deal includes some of those incentives he wanted, perhaps for playing time.