In the midst of a contract dispute, the Eagles have released Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis. The Eagles had reportedly offered Mathis additional money for the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a reward for his play with the team in 2014, but then pulled the offer. Mathis said the offer was pulled following a shakeup of the Eagles front office in which head coach Chip Kelly took power from general manger Howie Roseman. There were rumors that Mathis would be traded but the deal never happened which seemed to only make the situation worse, so this was probably the easiest solution for Philadelphia rather than dragging it on through the summer.
If the Eagles did indeed have an offer for Mathis last season you can understand his frustration over the process. Often there are times when players incorrectly think they are earning some kind of salary increase based on some very unofficial discussions with football ops, but in this case they may have been legit. It would make sense that they did have those discussions since the Eagles did give linebacker Connor Barwin a similar backend contract raise following his terrific 2014 season. The fact that Barwin’s contract was amended and Mathis’ was not would certainly infuriate the player.
Releasing Mathis will save the Eagles $5.5 million this season. They will carry $1 million in dead money charges in 2015 and 2016. Mathis’ salary this season ranked eighth in the NFL among active players that we have categorized as left guard. He is now a free agent and free to sign with any team. I would guess his asking price will be around $6.5 million such that he earns his Eagles contract plus whatever raise he felt he was set to earn.
That said I would imagine the Eagles tried shopping him around at the $5.5 million price tag and found no takers so it may be a lesser market than expected if that is the case. Last year the Patriots were able to pawn off Logan Mankins and a $6.25 million salary to the Buccaneers, but may not have had any other takers besides Tampa, who was desperate for a lineman. The Eagles may have had better luck in the preseason to move him, but it would have been a messy situation to wait that long on a hope someone would bite when nobody had thus far.
Most teams in the NFL should be able to afford Mathis to play for them. Since he is closer to the end of his career, he would likely do a short term deal and teams could extend bonus prorations out over five years by using void provisions. I would guess if you have $2 million in cap room you can make the deal work. The only teams in the NFL that would really be hard pressed to make a move would be the Saints and Chiefs.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.