Is the Philadelphia Eagles’ motivation to trade DeSean Jackson based on his desire to renegotiate his contract after all?
Head coach Chip Kelly wouldn’t provide many answers beyond, “we’re always going to do what’s best for the organization,” at the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday. However, maybe there is a clue in the way the organization is handling another player who is suddenly asking for more money.
Ian Rapoport for the NFL Network broke the disappointing news that Evan Mathis has joined Jackson on the trade block. The common theme between the two stories: the All-Pro left guard is said to be seeking more money coming off of a breakout season.
Jackson’s drama-filled offseason all started with seemingly innocent comments about “deserving” a new deal.
The Eagles’ apparent reaction to both requests: no, but we’ll send you to a team that will renegotiate your deal.
To be fair, the front office has a point. Just like Jackson, Mathis is only entering the third of a five-year deal signed in 2012. Typically, contract renegotiations and extensions that include more money, more years and/or more guarantees occur when there is one year remaining on the pact, occasionally two.
Look no further than Mathis’ fellow offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, both of whom received large extensions from the Birds this offseason. Both also happened to be on the final year of their existing contracts as well.
But like Jackson, Mathis has no more guaranteed money coming his way. He’ll also be 35-years-old when the current deal expires, so the chances of breaking the bank down the line—with Philly or anywhere else—are slim.
The Eagles signed Mathis to a one-year deal almost as an afterthought during the freewheeling spending period of 2011. He wound up not only winning a job at left guard, but playing better than he ever had in his career.
When Mathis reached free agency the following year, there was some interest in the marketplace, but the body of work wasn’t strong enough to warrant an elite contract. He re-signed with the Eagles for five years, $25 million.
Now, Mathis is finally being recognized as one of the best linemen in football with his Pro Bowl invitation and All-Pro honors. Meanwhile, analytics site Pro Football Focus has been calling Mathis the best guard in football for years.
Mathis’ base salary currently makes him the seventh highest-paid guard in the NFL in each of the next three seasons.
It appears he’s not going to find a sympathetic partner in the Eagles though, who seem to be taking the hard-line position that players should honor their contracts.
Of course, that’s not exactly a new trick for this organization.
Where Mathis’ story again aligns with Jackson’s is what Philadelphia could expect in return for Mathis. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports the club is seeking a third-round pick, but might settle for a fourth.
That may sound like a low-ball offer for the consensus best left guard in pro football last season. The fact that Mathis is already 32 and asking for a new contract certainly hurts his value though.
Apparently, the Eagles would be happy just to add picks. As of now, they only have six heading into perhaps the deepest draft in a decade.
But is trading star players from a team that lost by two points in the first round of the playoffs last season really the right way to go about building for the future?
Probably not, but then would the Eagles even be looking to move either Jackson or Mathis had they just kept quiet about wanting more money?
In Jackson’s case, the answer is maybe, as he poses other potential distractions. In retrospect, regarding everything we’ve gone through with the diva wide receiver this offseason and in the past, it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
And while Chip belabored the fact that DeSean never actually approached the team about addressing his contract, that doesn't mean management isn't anticipating this becoming a battleground.
Mathis’ addition to the trade block came from way further out of left field. The loss would also hurt more. At least the Eagles have a deep set of weapons at the skill positions. If Mathis is out of the picture, management will be forced to embark on a search to find his direct replacement immediately.
Needless to say, the trade rumors are taking their toll on some of the goodwill the Eagles built up in 2013 and during the early portion of this offseason. The message being sent seems clear though: somebody might be willing to pay you more money, but not us.