The move itself wasn’t shocking. The returns from the trade were justified and it made sense on every level. But you can’t help looking at this trade as a Philadelphia Eagles fan without feeling a slight lump in your throat. Jordan Matthews was traded to the Buffalo Bills along with a third-round pick in exchange for 23-year old cornerback Ronald Darby. If anything, the trade acted as a stark reminder, football is a business.
You couldn’t argue that the Matthews trade was due to a lack of production. It wasn’t as if since entering the NFL as a second round pick that the Vanderbilt product has struggled to find his feet. With the most receiving yards out of the slot of any wideout since entering the league, Matthews has put up exceptional numbers throughout times of uncertainty. A flurry of quarterbacks, a change of schemes and a reliance and responsibility on having to be the number one wideout and the oldest on the depth chart saw Matthews meet every challenge and exceed expectations. With 2,673 yards and 19 scores in his career so far, including that memorable touchdown reception to seal the deal in overtime against the Cowboys, Matthews simply produced whenever asked.
You couldn’t argue that the Matthews trade was due to not fitting the team or being a schematic outsider. While his prowess is in the slot, Matthews’ work ethic has had a significant impact on the Eagles locker room, gluing the roster together during times of uncertainty. Whether it was showing up early to OTA’s to workout and bond with Carson Wentz, or simply staying late after practice, Matthews’ mentality was an inspiring one at the very least. Never missing a day of Training Camp despite a lingering injury, never causing a stir about his contract situation, never doing anything to hurt the team. Matthews defined what it takes to be a Philadelphia Eagle.
You could argue however that this was strictly a business move. With his contract expiring at the end of this season and a slew of wide receivers in the same boat (let alone the rest of the team), the cap-strapped Eagles faced a crossroads. Do they want to strengthen an area of weakness and cash in on Matthews while they still can, or allow him to play out his contract year, receive nothing but a potential compensatory pick if he does wade the free agency waters or face a big investment if he’s re-signed?
The answer to that question was made even easier by the offseason breakout of Nelson Agholor. While Matthews was reluctantly held out of OTA’s due to a knee injury, it was USC standout Nelson Agholor taking over slot duties. After two tumultuous season’s in the NFL, Agholor’s resurgence was well underway. With Mike Groh by his side, confidence began to surge through Agholor and reports of him beginning to enjoy Football began to surface. The fans graced Aggy with a huge cheer at Lincoln Financial Field during open practice…and it was very much a perfect synopsis of the offseason so far.
Agholor was snatching the spotlight and there wasn’t a thing Matthews could do about it except watch and wait. Agholor’s speed, size, and catch radius were being showcased more consistently than they ever have before. All of a sudden, there was a legitimate slot competition. Agholor wasn’t facing Torrey Smith anymore. He was now facing the wideout who had mentored him up to this point in his career…and it was do or die.
After Mack Hollins proved against the Packers that he too could be a force from the slot, catching a huge touchdown pass early on to send the Eagles careering to a 6-0 lead, it seemed as if the future was becoming bleak. The Eagles could be poised to have a big season from Agholor and if Hollins can prove himself just as explosive as he practiced to be during his UNC days, then there wouldn’t be much of a drop off from trading Jordan Matthews.
From May. https://t.co/YeRIVtsRpm
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) August 11, 2017
If that drop off was minimal and the Eagles could bring in a starter elsewhere, the decision became only too logical. On the flip side however, it’s a tough trade to swallow for many. His teammates included.
Can't even tell you the impact @jmattjmattjmatt has had on my life both on and off the field. Best of luck bro, excited for your future!
— Chris Maragos (@ChrisMaragos) August 11, 2017
— Zach Ertz (@ZERTZ_86) August 11, 2017
— Trey Burton (@TreyBurton8) August 11, 2017
Crazy part of this business. @jmattjmattjmatt you'll always be my boy both on & off the field. Couldn't ask for a better teammate & friend.
— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) August 11, 2017
Jordan Matthews will be missed on the field, but his presence off of it will be just as hard to endure for those in and around the locker room. At the end of the day however, life in the NFL is unpredictable. You never know what lies around the corner. Whether you’re an undrafted free agent who goes on to become a 9-time pro-bowler, or one of the most influential figures in the locker room…football is a business. And for the Eagles, while that emotional connection between players is crucial…it can never override the long-term success of a franchise. Football is a business.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports