Instant analysis: Eagles released Ryan Mathews, but what does this mean for the team?

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After an offseason where the future of Ryan Mathews seemed bleak, the Eagles finally announced that they have cut ties with the running back earlier today. After spending five years with the Chargers, Mathews was signed by the Eagles in the 2015 offseason and he went on to play in 26 games for the Eagles, starting 14 of them. Over that time, he amassed 1,200 yards and 14 4 touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. So what does the cutting of Mathews mean for the Eagles?

 

The inevitable:
The 29-year old started last season brightly against the Browns, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts..but after that, things started to unravel. The Eagles committee effort flourished against the Steelers, with Smallwood and Barner scoring their first NFL scores and giving a glimpse of what could be..but would never eventually become.

Through a mix of injury battles and lack of direction, Ryan Mathews would find himself rushing for 56 yards against the Vikings one week, before carrying the ball just 4 times against the Cowboys, despite playing in 45% of Offensive snaps, the next. 2016 was a year of instability for the Eagles backfield..and the injury status of Mathews only contributed to that.
His rollercoaster year was topped by an injury that looked to not only end his season, but potentially his career. After suffering such a big blow following a career of injury setbacks, the Eagles had deemed it too much of a risk to continue with Mathews as their lead back and began to prepare for a new future.

 

Cap space:
The Eagles have saved $4 million in cap space by parting ways with the former Chargers running back, an extra $1.25M as opposed to if they waived him with an injury settlement. The saving now moves the Eagles to around $10M of free cap space. By waiting those extra few months, the cap-strapped Eagles have saved themselves a lot of money.

Roster spot:
Of course, the waiving of Mathews now opens an extra roster spot. It’s worth noting that the Eagles had recently signed two UDFA wide receivers, so that may provide some insight as to who could fill that void.

The statement:
Howie Roseman released a statement on the release of Mathews, saying the following.

“We want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Philadelphia Eagles over the past two seasons. We spoke today and had a productive conversation about his future and the direction of our team going forward. First and foremost, we are glad that Ryan is healthy and has been cleared to return to football activities, but given the current state of our running back position, we feel like it is best for both sides to go in a different direction. We wish him all the best as he continues his career.”

Running back rotation is set:
Although it was unlikely, there was always a slight hopes that Mathews could return to camp and compete for a position…because it’s hardly as if he was never productive. The problem with Mathews had always been retaining a clean bill of health. From a dominant goal-line back to an elusive 3-down rusher, Mathews did it all through two schemes for the Eagles…but the team moved on and decided to stick to their guns.

LeGarrette Blount replaces Mathews as a lead rusher, while behind him will likely be a committee of Sproles, Smallwood, Pumphrey and maybe even someone like Corey Clement. It’s now closure that the team can press forward with their committee of running backs without the if’s, but’s and maybe’s that Mathews may have presented.

 

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

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