image courtesy Deadspin.com
With the Eagles opening OTA’s (organized team activities), one prominent Eagle was missing: starting offensive lineman Evan Mathis. Mathis, who has been vocal about wanting a new contract or a new team, unsurprisingly decided not to attend.
So what exactly does Mathis’ absence mean? In a simple word: nothing.
For veteran players, these OTA’s are voluntary, so why would a veteran player attend and risk injury? Sure, Mathis participated in the post-draft OTA’s last year despite a contract dispute, but this year is different. The veteran guard is in his second year of wanting a new contract, which Mathis has certainly put extra emphasis on after suffering a knee injury that cost him seven games last season.
At 33-years old, Mathis may see this as his last chance to cash in one last time on a big contract and create stability for himself for the rest of his career. He is due to make $5.5 million in salary this year and $6 million next year. The reality is, no team is going to be willing to rip up his current deal and renegotiate a contract with former journeyman lineman.
Despite former journeyman status, the Alabama product has transformed himself into perhaps the best guard in football. Although he missed time last season, Mathis still ranked in Pro Football Focus’ top 101 players, entering the list at 59.
With the former All-Pro sitting out OTA’s, expect the Eagles to trot out players like Matt Tobin in fill Mathis’ position. The Birds learned a hard lesson last season in having depth at the offensive line position, so Mathis’ absence at OTA’s could be a blessing in disguise for the team.
If Evan Mathis really wants to make his point, then he will hold out of minicamp, scheduled for June 16-18. If that is the course of action that Mathis is willing to take, don’t be surprised to see the Eagles fine the lineman the maximum amount, up to $63,000 for the three days. Fining the lineman is a scare tactic that may not be enough to get Mathis to return, and if he chooses to skip the start of training camp in July, then the Eagles may be forced to continue to fine Mathis, or even consider to release him.
Right now though, the Eagles have little to worry about. Yes, Mathis wants a new contract, and once again, the Eagles are refusing to oblige. This will be another year on the merry-go-round with Mathis and the Eagles, but in the end, both parties will be together on the ride.