Mathis wants to remain an Eagle

Posted: March 05, 2012

Evan Mathis, who will become a free agent in a week, said he is willing to give the Eagles a hometown discount.

"Of course, just throw me $20 and a pizza and I'm in," Mathis joked Monday via e-mail.

If only it were that easy. In reality, it will take considerably more if the Eagles hope to retain their starting left guard. Mathis, though, in an e-mail interview with The Inquirer, made it clear that he would prefer to stick with the team that helped resurrect his career.

"I'd like to return," Mathis said.

According to the seven-year veteran, the Eagles want him to stay, as well.

"I do get the impression that they want me back," Mathis said.

General manager Howie Roseman, speaking at the combine two weeks ago, was evasive when asked about Mathis. He acknowledged the guard's contributions last season but didn't divulge much else, likely to keep Mathis's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, from using the Eagles' interest as leverage against other teams.

Mathis, 30, is coming off easily his best season in the NFL. Last season, he played under a league minimum, one-year contract. This offseason could be Mathis's last shot at a longterm deal, and one that could pay him handsomely.

But what will the market bear for a journeyman guard that tallied only 22 starts in his first six seasons but arguably played at a Pro Bowl level in 2011?

"I'm 30, and some people consider that old by NFL standards," Mathis said. "Objectively, I have limited mileage on my body, no serious injuries, a new CBA that focuses on player safety, a gym that will keep me in peak physical condition, and a drive to be the best."

Carl Nicks of the Saints and Ben Grubbs of the Ravens will set the bar for free-agent guards. Mathis is a notch below. Because he was signed to the league minimum the Eagles do not have exclusive rights to negotiate with Mathis before free agency begins next Tuesday at 4 p.m.

The New York Giants, Cardinals, Bengals, and Panthers could have interest. Mathis was drafted by Carolina and played a little more than two seasons in Cincinnati. The best fit appears to be the Eagles, though.

Mathis flourished under offensive line coach Howard Mudd, whose blocking scheme favors athletic linemen. And the Eagles line, after Todd Herremans moved to right tackle and Mathis replaced him, developed into one of the team's better units.

"I learned a lot from him in a short time last year," Mathis said of Mudd, who will return for a 38th season in the NFL. "Being able to learn more in the future is something that would help me grow as a player."

The Eagles, as it stands now, have only two guards under contract for next season – starting right guard Danny Watkins and the little-used Julian Vandervelde. Both are entering their second seasons.

If Mathis doesn't return, the Eagles will need to get some veteran interior help, with Jamaal Jackson likely gone. Mudd has rehabilitated many discarded linemen over his long career, Mathis being the latest. But why would the Eagles mess with what works?

"I have no idea how it will all play out," Mathis said. "If someone else offered me twice the money and the Eagles wouldn't match it, would it make sense to return?"

Eagles add LB. The Eagles signed linebacker Monte Simmons off the 49ers practice squad.

Simmons, an undrafted rookie free agent, spent last season on San Francisco's practice squad. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound linebacker was a defensive end at Kent State, where he recorded 21.5 career sacks.


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

 

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