The Eagles were wise to re-sign Evan Mathis. And Mathis was wise to re-sign with the Eagles.
On the bang-for-your-buck scale, Mathis might have been the teams best free agent signing last season. Jason Babin had a big year, but he was playing on a five-year, 28 million contract. Mathis, on the other hand, was a pleasant -- and affordable -- addition to the O-line.
He didn't cause much of a stir when he arrived at the Eagles training camp last July, in a summer when every day, it seemed, another big name free agent would arrive at Lehigh -- Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Cullen Jenkins. Instead, Mathis slipped in quietly.
The other free agents were taken to the interview tent where they were introduced to the media by coach Andy Reid. It was in that setting that Young had his celebrated Dream Team moment.
On Mathis first day, he did his interview standing next to the practice field in a pair of shorts, swatting away the flies. His signing was hardly considered big news. It was more like, Evan who?
But Mathis developed into a solid contributor who started 15 games at left guard. Pretty good for a guy who didnt know where he was going to line up. Right tackle? Winston Justice was hurt. Right guard? Rookie Danny Watkins wasnt in camp. Center? No one knew about Jason Kelce.
Whatever the coaches want me to do, Ill do it, Mathis said that morning. Ill adapt.
Mathis impressed offensive line coach Howard Mudd right from the first day, and by the time the Eagles opened the regular season, he was entrenched at left guard. That allowed Todd Herremans to move to right tackle, where he wanted to play (and frankly should have been playing) all along.
Over the course of the season, the rookies -- Kelce and Watkins -- developed, left tackle Jason Peters reaffirmed his All-Pro credentials, and the Eagles O-line -- with Mathis and Herremans doing their part -- became one of the better units in the league.
Mathis, a four-year starter at Alabama, played so well last season, he became a sought-after commodity on the free agent market. But after visiting with the Baltimore Ravens, Mathis decided to stay with the Eagles and signed a five-year contract worth a reported 25 million.
It was smart on the Eagles part to keep their O-line intact. It was smart on Mathis part because he recognized a good situation when he saw one.
Mathis played for three other teams -- Carolina, Miami and Cincinnati -- before signing with the Eagles. He was a guy who lived his NFL career out of a suitcase. He finally found a home with the Philadelphia. So why leave after one year and go someplace else?
The Ravens made a good offer and, certainly, they are a good team, but at age 30, Mathis felt he was better off putting down some roots.
That first day at training camp, Mathis talked about how he was phased out in Cincinnati when the team changed line coaches and the new coach wanted big, physical maulers up front. At 6-5 and 300 pounds, Mathis didnt fit the profile. He relies more on technique and quickness. As a result, he spent most of the 2010 season on the bench.
But Mathis was an ideal fit for the kind of line Mudd was developing in Philadelphia, so after consulting with his agent Drew Rosenhaus, he signed with the Eagles. It proved to be a good move and one worth extending.
Mathis did play very well last season. Almost every week when NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger and I would watch the tape, we would comment on how well Mathis was playing. He was good at pulling and trapping on running plays, which is part of the reason why LeSean McCoy averaged almost five yards a carry. He was good in pass protection, rarely missing a blitz and anchoring well against bigger defensive linemen.
Had Mathis left for Baltimore -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- he would have been hard to replace. And if he left, he may not found another situation that suits him as well as this one. His new contract is a deal that makes sense for all concerned.
E-mail Ray Didinger at email@example.com