August 16th, 2017 at 7:34pm CST by Connor J. Byrne
Free agent running back Ryan Mathewsmay be a fit for the Ravens, but signing him would require the club to overlook his ball security issues, observes Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Mathews has fumbled a league-high 20 times since 2010, notes Hensley, who adds that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh cut the playing time of Ray Rice, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen in recent years after each had problems in that department. “You play the best players, and at running back, the best players don’t fumble,” Harbaugh said in 2015. While Mathews has his flaws, including injury concerns, he has nonetheless averaged a lofty 4.4 yards per carry on nearly 1,200 career attempts. A Ravens team that tied for 20th in YPC last year (4.0) and won’t have the injured Kenneth Dixon in 2017 could use the type of per-carry production Matthews’ brings to the table.
More from the AFC:
The Steelers invested a second-round pick in Senquez Golson in 2015, but the cornerback’s lack of availability could bring an end to his time with the team, according to defensive coordinator Keith Butler (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette). “If he can’t stay on the field we can’t keep him,” said Butler. “That’s just the fact of the matter. That’s not threat or anything like that. That’s just the fact of the matter. It’s just the way it is for all of them.” Injuries prevented Golson from playing a down in either of his first two seasons, and a hamstring issue has kept him out for almost all of training camp this year.
Jets wide receiver/return man Lucky Whitehead will undergo surgery on his broken foot, head coach Todd Bowles told reporters Wednesday (via Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press). While it’s unclear exactly how much time Whitehead will miss, he’ll be on the shelf for a while. Bowles said that Whitehead “could potentially” play this year, per Waszak. The late-July waiver claim from the Cowboys had been in line to begin the season as Gang Green’s top returner. With would-be replacement Jalin Marshall out the first quarter of the season because of a suspension, the Jets could turn to one of Frankie Hammond, Romar Morris, Chris Harper or Marcus Murphy, Waszak suggests.
Fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman has passed T.J. Yates on the Bills’ depth chart at quarterback, leading Mike Rodak of ESPN.com to argue that the team should release the veteran. The Bills would only have the untested Peterman behind starter Tyrod Taylor at that point, but as Rodak writes, the loss of Taylor for an extended period would kill their already slim hopes of contending anyhow. Further, cutting Yates would allow Buffalo to keep another player at a position of need, and it’s possible the team would be able to re-sign him at a later date if an emergency were to arise under center. Yates nearly went without an employer last season until the Dolphins signed him in mid-December, after all, though he did suffer an ACL tear late in the previous year.
August 15th, 2017 at 5:29pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The Eagles finally ended the NFL’s longest charade today, releasing veteran running back Ryan Mathews months after it became clear they’d do so. Philadelphia had reason to wait, of course, as now that Mathews has received medical clearance, the club is off the hook for $1.15MM in injury protection.
Mathews, a first-round selection back in 2010, has mostly been defined by his lack of availability through seven NFL campaigns. He’s appeared in all 16 games just one time, and has missed roughly a quarter of the 112 total games in which he could’ve played. Additionally, Mathews is now on the wrong side of 30, and is hitting an age when some running backs break down.
Those negative attributes are obvious, but Mathews still has quite a bit to offer interested NFL clubs. In fact, he’s perhaps the perfect NFL backup running back. Here’s why:
Given that Mathews has missed so much time during his career, it’s more informative to assess his production on a per-play basis rather than in the aggregate. Defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) is a Football Outsiders metric that measures value on a rate basis, and can be applied to either team or individual performance. In seven NFL seasons, Mathews has ranked among the top-20 running backs in DVOA five times, including a No. 3 finish in 2015. So while Mathews’ counting statistics might not be all that impressive (he’s crossed the vaunted 1,000-yard threshold only twice), he’s been extremely valuable when he’s been on the field.
Success rate is another Football Outsiders metric that’s often helpful when evaluating running backs, at it determines how well a back keeps an offense moving. In general, a run will deemed a success if a back gains 40% of the needed yards on first down, 60% of the needed yards on second down, and 100% of the needed yardage on third down.
Different situations can adjust those percentage tiers, but overall the formula is a good indicator of how well a back is keeping an offense “on schedule,” as Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com writes. Mathews grades incredibly well based on success rate: In his seven NFL campaigns, he’s finished as a top-25 back in success rate six times, and ranked among the top-10 twice (2013 and 2015).
While he’s not an above-average pass blocker, Mathews can be useful in the passing game. He’s averaged 26 receptions per season during his career, and even reached 50 catches in 2011. Since entering the league in 2010, Mathews ranks eighth among all running backs with a 79.3% catch rate on 226 targets, so he can be relied on as a passing game weapon. Fumbles have been an issue for Mathews, however, as he ranks first among NFL backs with 21 fumbles since 2010.
As a backup running back, Mathews would — by definition — see his touches reduced. Not only would that perhaps allow Mathews to stay healthy, but he can still remain productive when he is called upon. Not being asked to play starter’s snaps would help both Mathews and the team that signs him.
When the Eagles signed Mathews prior to the 2015 season, NFL Films producer Greg Cosell called him a “decisive downhill runner,” and Fran Duffy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com explained why those traits worked so well for what was — at the time — a zone-blocking-Eagles run game. But Mathews can conceivably fit in any number of offenses, as Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus explained to me.
“I think [Mathews] can be a useful member of a backfield,” said Monson. “I actually think he’s quite scheme diverse and pretty versatile as a back, so he should have options.”
Additionally, Mathews has played under a number of offensive minds who are still employed in various roles throughout the league. That list includes Mike McCoy (Broncos offensive coordinator), Rob Chudzinski (Colts OC), Pat Shurmur (Vikings OC), Hal Hunter (Browns offensive line coach), and Jason Michael (Titans quarterbacks coach), meaning there’s no shortage of offensive coaches who have firsthand experience with Mathews.
Coming off an injury-plagued season in 2014, Mathews landed a three-year deal worth $11MM ($5MM guaranteed) with the Eagles. As he hits free agency for the second time in his career, Mathews won’t come anywhere near that total: while he’s offered solid production on a rate basis over the past two seasons, he’s also two years older and just recovered from a serious neck injury.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Mathews can only score a minimum salary benefit deal in the coming weeks. Such a contract would allow a club to pay Mathews at the seven-year veteran rate of $900K while only using $615K in cap space. Mathews could also receive a signing bonus of up to $80K.
Recent contracts for veteran running backs include Jacquizz Rodgers (two years, $3.3MM), Robert Turbin (two years, $2.7MM), and Lance Dunbar (one year, $1.5MM). Dunbar is probably the best comparable given that he’s spent most of the past two seasons dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness, but he’s also three years younger than Mathews. Whichever team signs Mathews should plan on taking on an eminently affordable salary, and cap space won’t be a barrier.
Signing Mathews would also eliminate another potential opportunity cost — the draft pick capital it may require to trade for a running back. Earlier today, I examined several backs that could be dealt in the near future, including Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, and T.J. Yeldon, all of whom are probably upgrades on Mathews, but all of whom will require the sacrifice of a draft pick. For clubs that aren’t inclined to trade away future value, signing Mathews would cost only money, not picks.
Mathews became the best available free agent running back the second he was released by the Eagles. While other veteran options include Rashad Jennings, DeAngelo Williams, and James Starks, none offer the combination of talent and relative youth that does Mathews. Any team looking for running back help should instantly vault Mathews to their top of their free agent lists.
With that said, here’s a look at several clubs that could make sense as a landing spot for Mathews:
Baltimore Ravens:Kenneth Dixon was already going to miss the first four games of the season after being suspended, but now he’ll be sidelined for the entire 2017 campaign after undergoing knee surgery. Terrance West looks like Baltimore’s bell-cow, while Danny Woodhead will play on passing downs. Mathews could give the Ravens another viable option in the backfield, and Baltimore’s coaches “have a lot of respect for” Mathews, as Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
Los Angeles Chargers: Back to where it all began? With new head coach Anthony Lynn in town, the Chargers figure to lean heavily on the run, meaning Melvin Gordon could need a breather every once in awhile. Los Angeles’ reserves behind Gordon — Kenneth Farrow, Branden Oliver, Kenjon Barner, Andre Williams — are nothing to write home about, so Mathews could help out, especially as a pass-catcher.
Miami Dolphins: Mathews makes sense for the Dolphins, opines Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link), especially given that Jay Ajayi is recovering from a concussion. Ajayi, who dealt with knee injuries in college, needs a solid backup behind him in case injury issues crop up again. Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake (also battling a concussion) are interesting players, but Mathews is a more known commodity.
New York Giants: Big Blue ranked 26th in rushing DVOA last season, and the only investment they’ve made at the running back position since has been fourth-round rookie Wayne Gallman. While the Giants have made noise about Paul Perkins serving as a three-down back, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com reports Perkins “hasn’t blown anyone away” at camp, meaning the club could be searching for reinforcements.
The Eagles decided to move on from Mathews months ago, but they have been waiting for him to first get the green light on his injured neck from team doctors. Had the Eagles released Mathews before getting medical clearance, they would have had to pay him $1.15MM in injury protection. Instead, he’ll count against the cap for just $1MM in dead money while saving the club $4MM.
“We want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Philadelphia Eagles over the past two seasons,” the team said in a statement. “We spoke today and had a productive conversation about his future and the direction of our team going forward. First and foremost, we are glad that Ryan is healthy and has been cleared to return to football activities, but given the current state of our running back position, we feel like it is best for both sides to go in a different direction. We wish him all the best as he continues his career.”
Mathews‘ season ended in December when he suffered the painful neck injury. Even with that injury plus the MCL sprain he was dealing with, he still managed to turn in a decent season. In 13 games, he had 661 yards off of 155 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. He also had eight rushing touchdowns plus 13 catches for 115 yards.
As Bowen has previously reported, Philadelphia needs to wait to cut Mathews until he’s healthy in order to avoid paying $1.1MM in injury protection. Mathews will still count for $1MM in dead money once he can pass a physical and is released, but that money will only count for salary cap purposes. No further cash will head Mathews’ way if the Eagles hold off on cutting him until he is fully recovered.
Mathews, 30, has often been effective on a per-play basis during his seven-year career, but injuries have limited his overall contributions. He’s appeared in all 16 games just once during his NFL tenure, started 14 games just twice, and has managed only 510 carries over the past three seasons. On the bright side, Mathews did average 4.6 yards per carry during that three-year span.
Upon signing running back LeGarrette Blount, the Eagles decided that they would be moving on from Ryan Mathews. Nearly two months later, Mathews remains on the roster. Now, it seems we’re at least two weeks away from a resolution on the matter.
Mathews’ neck injury will be evaluated when veterans report to camp later this month, Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News tweets. If Mathews can pass a physical, the Eagles can release him without being on the hook for injury protection. The Eagles are not interested in releasing him before that point, because they would have to pay out an extra $1.15MM otherwise, leaving them with a $2.15MM cap charge when factoring in the dead money on his deal. By waiting until he passes the exam, however, the Eagles will be left with just $1MM on the cap while saving $4MM.
Mathews‘ season ended in December when he suffered the painful neck injury. Even with that injury plus the MCL sprain he was dealing with, he still managed to turn in an okay season. In 13 games, he had 661 yards off of 155 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. He also had eight rushing touchdowns plus 13 catches for 115 yards.
The Eagles have signed running back LeGarrette Blount and the expectation is that they will release Ryan Mathews as a result, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. However, he adds that the Eagles will wait until Mathews is healthy before releasing him.
As noted by former NFL executive Michael Lombardi (on Twitter), cutting Mathews before he is healthy would leave the Eagles on the hook for injury protection. Per the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Philly would have to pay out an extra $1.15MM, leaving them with a $2.15MM cap charge when factoring in the dead money on his deal. By waiting until he’s back to full health, however, the Eagles will be left with just $1MM on the cap while saving $4MM.
Mathews‘ 2016 season ended in December of last year when he suffered a herniated disc in his neck. Still, even with that injury plus the MCL sprain he was dealing with, he still turned in an alright season. In 13 games played he had 661 yards off of 155 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. He also had eight rushing touchdowns plus 13 catches for 115 yards.
December 23rd, 2016 at 11:06am CST by Zachary Links
Ryan Mathews‘ season is over, Eagles coach Doug Pederson tells reporters (Twitter link via Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer). He will need surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. The injury happened on a third down goal line play and, remarkably, Mathews stayed in for fourth down and carried the ball.
With a $5MM cap hit next year, Mathews may have played his final game for the Eagles. Philly can save $4MM by releasing him.
Mathews also missed time this year with an MCL sprain. In total, his season ends with 13 games played and 661 yards off of 155 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. He also had eight rushing touchdowns plus 13 catches for 115 yards.
Of course, with a 6-9 record, the Eagles will not be playing for much in the season finale against the Cowboys. And, by virtue of their win over the Giants on Thursday, the game is effectively meaningless for Dallas as well. The Cowboys have secured the NFC East crown and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Without Mathews, the Eagles are left with Darren Sproles and Byron Marshall. The Eagles don’t have any running backs on the p-squad, so they’ll have to go out-of-house if they want a third running back for this game.
While you contemplate what could have been for the Philly secondary, here’s more from the NFC East:
Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick playing with plantar fasciitis, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. So far, Scandrick has been able to tough it out and play through the pain, but one has to imagine that he might need some rest. If the Cowboys can clinch the top seed in the conference, he could get that opportunity before the playoffs begin.
Eagles running back Ryan Mathews (MCL sprain) will practice today, coach Doug Pederson told reporters this morning. He has missed the last two games but that’s a step in the right direction for him playing this week.
Bad news for the Giants as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paulwill undergo groin surgery. JPP will miss a minimum of six weeks, which would rule him out for the first week of the playoffs and possibly the second week as well. There’s also no guarantee that he’ll be able to return if the Giants are able to go further than that in the postseason.
Byron Maxwell does not hold any ill will toward Chip Kelly despite his shaky 2015 season in Philadelphia. Instead, the Dolphins‘ top cornerback observed a dysfunctional defense, one that ranked 30th last season.
“We weren’t communicating on defense. Our defense just wasn’t good,” Maxwell said, via James Walker of ESPN.com. “Our red zone defense sucked. We just wasn’t good. We just didn’t have the chemistry and the fight for each other that I’m on now [with Miami].”
Thanks to Kelly’s “life-changing” investment in Maxwell during the coach’s one year of NFL personnel control, the sixth-year corner is in Year 2 of a six-year, $63MM deal as his former coach’s team comes to Miami. Maxwell does not doubt Kelly’s football acumen like some of the jettisoned Eagles have, but Kelly’s obviously ventured back into embattled territory thanks to the 49ers’ nine-game losing streak.
“Chip is a good dude. He was a good man,” Maxwell said. “He’s a very smart guy. … He believed in me, that I could be the guy. It didn’t work out, but it taught me a lot.”
Here’s more from around the league during November’s final week of games.
Instead of using their projected $64MM in 2017 cap space to make outside hires for quick-fix purposes, the Browns should focus that money on retaining Jamie Collins and Terrelle Pryor, whom Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes would be top-10 picks in this coming draft. Future expiring-contract players Joel Bitonio and Christian Kirksey should be re-signed as well before they hit the walk-year point so many recent Browns have, Pluto notes, with the recent glut of defectors helping put the franchise in the position in which it currently resides.
The Chiefs will be without nickel corner Steven Nelson against the Broncos with a neck injury, the team announced. After being deemed not ready as a rookie, the former third-round pick has become one of his team’s top three corners this season. Marcus Peters missed last week’s game and is questionable for Sunday night. Each of Kansas City’s corners is a rookie-contract player on a veteran defense, with rookie D.J. White and seldom-used trade acquisition Kenneth Acker next in line to join Peters and Phillip Gaines in sub-packages in Week 12. Dee Ford and Jeremy Maclin are also out for the Chiefs.
Ryan Mathews won’t suit up for the Eagles on Monday night, Tim McManus of ESPN.com reports. Mathews left last weekend’s Eagles-Seahawks game due to what turned out to be an MCL sprain. This will give the running back at least one missed game in six of his seven NFL seasons. Philadelphia’s starter missed three games last season and 10 in 2014. Darren Sproles will play, however, for an Eagles team trying to stay in wild-card contention.
Canadian tight end prospect Antony Auclair could be a rare Canadian college-to-NFL performer, with six NFL teams scouting his most recent game with Universite’ Laval, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reports. The 6-foot-6 player has just 17 receptions this season, however. CFL wideouts Bryan Burnham and DaVaris Daniels — who played collegiately at Tulsa and Notre Dame, respectively — could also be 2017 targets for NFL teams. Burnham, 26, has 1,392 yards in 18 games for the British Columbia Lions.