Free agency is just about underway and many fans are clamoring for moves to upgrade the linebacker and safety positions. But one of the Eagles’ current positions of strength may become a weakness in the very near future–left guard.
Evan Mathis, the Eagles current left guard (for at least the next four hours) played at a Pro-
Bowl level last year. He graded out as one of the best left guards in the game. His dramatic jump in play has made Mathis the Eagles’ top priority as free agency opens this afternoon.
Or has it?
At 30-years-old, Mathis has played well when he’s been on the field. But he was often injured in Cincinnati and had difficulty staying on the field. Luckily for him (and his bank account), he played 15 games for the Eagles this past season and helped form one of the best left sides of the offensive line in the NFL. But the Eagles have to consider a few things before dishing out a loaded contract to Mathis.
1) His age. 30-years-old isn’t terribly old for an offensive lineman, but he’s not young by any stretch. Mathis will obviously want a long-term deal that will keep him in town throughout the duration of his career. Are the Eagles willing to do that? They’ve been reluctant to do such deals prior to last offseason. They bucked the trend in inking older veterans like Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha.
2) His injury history. Mathis missed five games over his final two seasons with the Bengals. Yeah, he was healthy for the Eagles in 2011, but that hasn’t been the norm for Mathis. And as he climbs over the wrong side of 30-years-old, the Eagles have to have some concerns about his durability. Talent is irrelevant if he can’t stay on the field.
3) Whoelse is out there? If the Eagles decide to let Mathis walk they better have a good backup plan in place. His departure would create a pressing void, one the Eagles have to fill if they plan to contend for a Super Bowl come September.
One way to do that would be by signing Carl Nicks, the Saints starting left guard. He’s blossomed into one of the best in the business. He’s a big body that can block both the run and pass. At 27-years-old, he would fit nicely with the Eagles’ youth movement along the offensive line. Personally, I’d prefer to give a large chunk of change to a younger, healthier player. Continuity is great, but if both players command similar contracts off of Mathis’ big season, then the Eagles need to think long and hard about Nicks.
Of course, the Eagles have an affinity for drafting offensive lineman. But they’d have to take a replacement for Mathis with the 16th pick overall which is the perfect spot for David DeCastro out of Stanford. DeCastro is the total package and may be worth a top-10 pick. Called the next Steve Hutchinson by some experts, DeCastro can do it all.
He’s a perfect run and pass blocker and has the measurables to go with his production. He’s also an experienced starter who comes from a pro style offense which is hard to find in today’s college football. He’s extremely smart and a great leader that played well when he got the chance against other high level defensive players.
I fully expect the Eagles to try and get a deal done with Mathis. It makes sense it a lot of ways, but they can’t go crazy to keep him.
Frankly, signing Nicks is probably a long shot. But if Mathis walks then it should almost be a foregone conclusion that DeCastro will land in Philly.