The Eagles and the Jordan Matthews Conundrum
Apparently, we need to have the Jordan Matthews talk. Again.
How much do Eagles fans hate Matthews? After averaging 75 receptions, 891 yards and six touchdowns over his first three NFL seasons, there are legitimately people who want to see Matthews traded so that a wide receiver who averaged 30 receptions, 324 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons can have more playing time.
The latter production belongs to Nelson Agholor, and I mean no disrespect. He’s had a tremendous offseason and training camp, and certainly might be poised for a breakout year. Yet, everything that has folks excited about Agholor has happened at practice. For three years, Matthews has been getting the job done in games.
Say what you want about dropped passes, about volume, about misleading statistics. Matthews has 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns during his brief career. Those are respectable numbers! He’s useful! And he could be even better now that he’s the offense’s second or third option.
Never mind the regular season is still a month away, and injuries could alter the depth chart at receiver in a hurry between now and then. Has anybody stopped to think the Eagles could use both Matthews and Agholor in the event somebody gets hurt?
If the Eagles get a great offer for Matthews, fine. If Matthews departs as a free agent in 2018, fine. But the Eagles don’t have to trade Matthews just because his contract is expiring – who knows, maybe he’ll have a strong season and the club will re-sign him? And the Eagles certainly don’t have to move him to make room for a receiver who has proven nothing.
I don’t understand what’s to dislike about Matthews. He’s perfectly fine when not miscast as a No. 1 receiver, and likely to improve now that he’s not the singular focus of opposing defenses on a weekly basis. Maybe wait and see how 2017 plays out before awarding his roster spot to Agholor.
Should the Eagles sign Tramaine Brock?
In perhaps the best example yet of what a sad state of affairs the Eagles cornerbacks are – or at least the perception is – there is a sudden clamoring to sign Tramaine Brock.
I’m not saying Brock wouldn’t be in the mix to start if he joined the Eagles. Nearly instantaneously after the seven-year veteran was “cleared” of domestic violence charges Wednesday – we’ll get to that in a moment – there was already a report the Eagles are interested. Seriously, the man had barely set foot outside the courthouse.
Speaking strictly about his play on the field, Brock is a proven, experienced cornerback. He started 43 games for San Francisco since 2013, including playoffs, racking up 156 tackles, 38 pass deflections and nine interceptions. Brock is not a shutdown cover man by any means, but he only turns 29 in August, and neither is anybody else on the Eagles' roster.
Of course, that’s if you can overlook the allegations against Brock. Yes, charges were dropped, but there’s a difference between “not guilty” and “uncooperative witness.” The evidence was compelling enough for the 49ers to cut Brock immediately in April, and he could still face discipline from the NFL.
The Eagles will likely do their homework. It’s no secret the club is still searching for help at cornerback, and based on ability alone, Brock represents a potential upgrade. Whether a marginal talent boost would be worth the trouble is a matter of perspective – although I don’t imagine the Eagles will think so.
Did the Eagles mess up with Byron Maxwell?
When the Eagles traded Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to move up five spots and go from No. 13 to No. 8 in the 2016 NFL draft, I graded the deal a C+. A year and a half later, that still seems about right.
Sending Maxwell and Alonso to the Dolphins accomplished a lot. Not so much in terms of the No. 8 pick, which was eventually included in the trade for Carson Wentz – a trivial move as long as the Eagles were serious about getting their franchise quarterback. (Those five slots were not going to kill the deal with Cleveland.) It was more about removing Maxwell’s contract from the books, while simultaneously dumping a couple of bad fits for the locker room.
Both Maxwell and Alonso went on to become solid starters in Miami. That’s not surprising. Maxwell wasn’t as bad as his reputation with fans, and Alonso wasn’t healthy during his tenure with the club. Meanwhile, the Eagles still need at least one quality cornerback, maybe two, possibly even three. There’s no question Maxwell would be an upgrade right now, and the team essentially gave him away.
So did the Eagles screw up, as Maxwell recently claimed? It’s easy to look at the club’s depth coupled with his performance in Miami and say yes. Then again, Maxwell brought a mercenary vibe to the locker room, and after some memorably toasty games, was never going to repair his image with fans. He wasn’t viewed as a great fit for Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme, either.
I wasn’t as down on Maxwell as most. After a rough start to his Eagles career, Maxwell played well, until a late-season collapse aided by injuries. But he was vastly overpaid, and didn’t possess the right type of mindset to thrive as a professional athlete in this city.
Was the Maxwell trade a great deal for the Eagles? Not really. But were they better off for making it? Even looking at the state of the corners a year later, definitely.
Eagles do right by Brandon Graham
It seems like Brandon Graham and the Eagles were able to work out a fair compromise on the contract front. Details of that can be found here, but in short, there are all sorts of incentives for the eighth-year veteran.
It’s worth pointing out Graham was not wildly underpaid. The $7.5 million he is scheduled to cost the Eagles under the salary cap in 2017 is tied for 20th among all edge defenders, according to Over The Cap. Graham was set to drop to 26th in 2018, the final year of his contract. For a player with a career high of 6.5 sacks and zero Pro Bowls, that doesn’t seem completely out of line.
Then again, there’s no question Graham is better than sack totals indicate, and more valuable to the Eagles than can be measured. He’s as hard a worker as there is and a tremendous personality in the locker room. And any limitations Graham might lack rushing the passer, he more than makes up for exceling in run defense.
These new incentives don’t change the fact that Graham’s contract allows the Eagles to move on with minimal consequence next year. He no doubt would have preferred something more permanent and long term. The club didn’t have to do anything at all for Graham, either. It seems like a sign of good faith, and perhaps the precursor to something more long term if he continues to perform.
Maybe most of all, recent deals with Graham and Jason Peters send a message to the Eagles' locker room and players around the league that this is an organization that will reward contracted veterans who are deserving. Take one look at all the holdouts around the NFL right now, and you’ll quickly realize that’s not the case everywhere.