On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles released former All-Pro guard Evan Mathis amid months of contentious contract discussions. Even though Mathis has been one of the NFL’s best guards the past few years, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly decided that his team could probably do without him.
As most of you know, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. They addressed this in the draft with their two second round selections: offensive tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet. Hope is high that both of them will develop into premier blockers that can protect potential franchise quarterback Jameis Winston for a very long time. However, entrusting Smith and Marpet might be too much to ask of offensive line coach George Warhop and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
The reliance on the two rookies is what should make general manager Jason Licht think long and hard about signing Mathis, even if it’s a one-year deal. The former Eagle would be able to step in and immediately play either left or right guard, which would give Marpet even more time to adjust to the pro game.
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If the team does sign Mathis, they should move Logan Mankins from his current left guard spot to right guard. Although Mankins has assumed the role of a veteran leader on the team, his play continued to show signs of decline last season. Some of that can be blamed on his adjustment from New England—where he played his entire career—to Tampa, but he also made plenty of mental mistakes and was overpowered by more blockers than we have seen in recent memory.
Mathis has the ability to continue to be one of the NFL’s best guards in Tampa Bay. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Mathis is a nimble, intelligent guard that is able to move to the second level to pick up linebackers and defensive backs with ease. During his time in Philadelphia, particularly under Kelly, he has grown into the NFL’s best guard.
In 2013, he won Pro Football Focus’ inaugural Bruce Matthews award, which recognizes the NFL’s best overall lineman. For three straight seasons, PFF named him the NFL’s best guard, while he was ranked second last year despite missing seven games due to injuries.
Marpet is the team’s future at guard, Mathis should be their present. The team has the money to sign him, and the addition will stabilize a line that needs to protect its rookie quarterback first and foremost over everything else. The future of our franchise depends on Winston. Let’s beef up his protection even more and get Mathis to sign on the dotted line.