The offseason is often a wild rollercoaster ride for NFL teams, and the Eagles are no exception. NFL insider Charles Robinson tweeted that the team are “open to dealing” wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
While the wording is very carefully selected, it’s certainly something worth noting. There have been no assertions by the Eagles in regards to trading neither Daniel or Matthews..unlike Mychal Kendricks and Allen Barbre on the other hand. The two are considered key figures in the growth of Carson Wentz and it’s unlikely that the Eagles will want to give them up without a substantial return. But as we all know, the Eagles are climbing a tall Mountain when it comes to cap space..and with Matthews entering his contract year, you can understand the reasoning behind being “open to offers”. However, as polarizing as this report has become among fans on social media..any advancement on the Eagles openness to trade their leading wideout would be a fundamental mistake. Here are five reasons why:
It’s easy for many to say that the career 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns Jordan Matthews has put up are “inflated” because of Chip Kelly’s scheme. But whether it was Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford or a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz throwing him the football, Matthews has always found a way to shine out of the slot.
When the rest of the Eagles receiving corps was struggling for consistency, Matthews was being treated as a number one receiver out of the slot and fighting corresponding cornerbacks and tightened coverage as a result. This didn’t stop him from leading the Eagles receiving corps in two of his three seasons in the NFL, finishing second to Jeremy Maclin in his rookie year.
With Zach Ertz missing from the Offense at times in 2016 due to injury, it was Jordan Matthews who stepped up and helped his rookie quarterback when he needed it most. Dealing with injuries himself this year, the Vanderbilt receiver still emerged as a favorite target for Carson Wentz, being targeted more than anyone on the roster (including Ertz)..and it’s easy to see why.
Matthews is the Eagles most dependable receiver and it’s not even close. Trading away such a talent who was fundamental in the growth of Carson Wentz in year one, without even sourcing a replacement..would be putting all the Eggs in a very wobbly basket, either hoping Agholor can perform in his more suited slot role and overcome his previous setbacks..or that a new signing doesn’t just emerge as a true number one..but can tick all the boxes Matthews did from the slot.
Matthews was easily the Eagles most productive receiver last year..and while comparatively that may not be the most flattering statistic, when you view the attention he received as a result of his new ” WR 1″ status from both Carson Wentz and opposing defenses, he was still able to move the chains and push the Offense in the right direction.
Many are quick to criticize the drops of the Eagles receiving corps, and Matthews ranked 9th in the NFL in that category. However, he was targeted more than five of the receivers with higher drop rates. Those playmakers include Marvin Jones Sr, Travis Kelce, Tavon Austin and Brandon Marshall.
On that note, Matthews actually caught a higher percentile of his passes than some eyebrow raising names. His 62.4% catch rate was better than Tyler Lockett, Davante Adams, Sterling Shepard, Julian Edelman, Mike Wallace, Michael Crabtree and pending free agent who has been linked with the Eagles, Kenny Britt, to name but a few.
If you factor in the playcalling that limited the production of the Eagles wide receivers, suddenly his 804 yards and 3 touchdowns don’t seem that bad at all in comparison.
One of the biggest themes moving forward for the Eagles, is building a roster that can grow with Carson Wentz..and there was arguably no player whom he clicked with more, than Jordan Matthews. In fact, as irrelevant as it seems..the Puppy that Jordan now owns was given to him by the Eagles signal caller (More on that in the first issue of -=+ dropping later this month).
The pair showed up at the NovaCare Complex before any other players during the lead up to OTA’s, working out inside the bubble and running routes before the process had even started. The duo simply elevated each other in 2016 and disrupting that would not only harm the growth of Carson Wentz, but continue to add unnecessary hurdles for an increasingly young offense to overcome.
We can look at Matthews leading the team in targets, we can look to the handshake showcasing “it’s all business”.. but as the season progressed and the rapport continued to build, it was clear to see that the duo were in the midst of building a truly special connection.
As it stands, Matthews is the oldest receiver on the roster. The position has been unsettled since the departures of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin..but the only constant has been that 24-year old out of Vanderbilt. Through Nelson Agholor’s tumultuous rookie year, the streaky performances of Dorial Green-Beckham and the never-ending turnstile of offseason comers and goers, Matthews has emerged as a leader at the position. A player that the rest of the guys look up to. Displaying an attitude of positivity and a relentless work ethic, Matthews has been ready to put the position on his back since the moment he walked into the league. Ripping that away with no guaranteed replacement is a little silly..
The Eagles are striving for continuity. They’re striving to build a roster that in a five-year window can compete on the grandest stage of all. Matthews may be the most important player on Offense whose contract has not been extended yet..and losing that piece would sting in more ways than one.
If we look at Matthews in his rookie year, he played behind Jeremy Maclin..a true number one receiver. Back-to-back 100 yard games and 3 in total on the year, saw Matthews shine under Chip Kelly, with a strong supporting cast in the way of blocking receiver Riley Cooper and the aforementioned Kansas City Chief. Since then, JMatt has been thrown into the front lines as a number one wideout working out of the slot..a role that is simply ridiculously hard to comprehend without a threat who can stretch the field or a stable backfield.
We’ve seen Matthews put up 872 yards behind Jeremy Maclin..and now with 3-years experience, an increasing potential and an unrelenting work ethic, it would only seem fitting to find a true number one receiver and see what Matthews is capable of in his contract year..from both a production perspective, and one of financial possibility.
If the Eagles can establish a receiving corps that is built on layers and can damage defenses from any number of targets, then the potential in Matthews’ game opens up dramatically. Instead of focusing on what Matthews didn’t do with the chains of a limited offense around his ankles, imagine what he could do if the Eagles were to set him loose with a strong supporting cast once again.
The team are embarking on a tremendously exciting new era. One filled with hope and potential. Ripping the heart of an already lacking receiving corps without real reason for justification, would not only blow the doors off their new direction..but likely set the franchise back to square one. The entire point of this offseason is to surround Wentz with talent, not deprive him of it.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports