Eagles sign guard Evan Mathis to five-year contract

was paid the league minimum last year: $735,000.
was paid the league minimum last year: $735,000. (Evan Mathis)
Posted: March 18, 2012

It's easy to say now that Evan Mathis was never going to sign with anyone other than the Eagles as long as they made a competitive offer.

But there were a few sweaty-palm moments down at the NovaCare Complex over the previous several days as the free-agent guard flirted with the Baltimore Ravens.

Ultimately, though, the Eagles felt confident with several factors in their favor. For one, after spending his first seven seasons in the NFL with four different teams, the 30-year-old Mathis was not looking to uproot his life once again.

Also, why would he leave a team that gave him a chance to start, a system he was tailor-made for and a coach that helped resurrect his career? Money, you could say, but when the leveraging between the two teams ended and the Eagles had the better offer, Mathis' decision became a no-brainer.

He made it Saturday after flying home to Arizona following a two-day visit in Baltimore, and the Eagles later announced the five-year deal.

"To all the Eagles fans who offered me various food and incentives to return," Mathis wrote on Twitter just before the official announcement, "I've come to collect."

The Eagles have now signed four of their own players to multiyear contracts since the start of free agency last Tuesday. Tackle Todd Herremans got a three-year extension, defensive end Trent Cole signed a four-year extension, wide receiver DeSean Jackson agreed to a five-year deal and now Mathis has a long-term commitment.

The deal is worth $25.5 million in base salary with $7 million guaranteed, according to an NFL source. Last year, Mathis signed with the Eagles for $735,000 - the veteran minimum - which prevented the Eagles from negotiating with their starting left guard until the start of the new league year.

The team obviously wanted to retain Mathis, who played at a Pro Bowl level, according to some analysts. He showed up at training camp just another body, but was the starting left guard in just a matter of weeks after Todd Herremans was moved to right tackle.

As the season wore on, the Eagles offensive line became stronger and developed into one of best under coach Andy Reid. The Eagles now have all five starters - tackle Jason Peters (contract expires in 2014), center Jason Kelce (2014), right guard Danny Watkins (2014), Herremans (2016) and Mathis (2016) - under contract for the next three seasons.

If Mathis had walked, the Eagles could have turned to Julian Vandervelde, who played only minutes last season as a rookie. Or they could have simply picked up another guard off the scrap heap, hoping that Mudd would pull another transformation out of his hat.

But Mathis would have been missed. An athletic specimen at 6-foot-5, 302 pounds, he and Peters were the Eagles' two best run-blockers and helped pave the way for running back LeSean McCoy's 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing.

He is also well-suited to Mudd's zone blocking scheme and is a mauler on designed screens. Mathis, off the field, is also one of the more approachable Eagles, although his sarcasm on Twitter hasn't amused some fans.

On Friday night as he was supposedly weighing offers, Mathis tweeted a picture of a Raven squawking at an solemnly posed Eagle without much of an exclamation. He ended the torture, however, a day later.

"I forgot to wear green for St. Patrick's Day," Mathis tweeted Saturday, "so I signed with the Eagles to make up for it."

Free agency update. Other than retaining Mathis, the Eagles have yet to be very active in free agency. Defensive tackle Jason Jones, a former pupil of Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn in Tennessee, signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks.

The Eagles were interested and had conversations with the 25-year-old Jones, but he ended up choosing Seattle.

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

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