PHILADELPHIA -- The Evan Mathis situation will come to a crossroads when the Philadelphia Eagles hold their first mandatory minicamp next week. As the last voluntary camp played out this week, it was clear that the Pro Bowl left guard doesn't have the unquestioned support of his teammates.
This is a tricky area for Chip Kelly and the Eagles. They probably could have headed off this whole problem at the pass by finding some way to accommodate Mathis' contract demands. The team took the initiative with linebacker Connor Barwin, reworking his contract to reward him for making the Pro Bowl and leading the NFC in sacks last year. That seems like a reasonable model for a solution to Mathis' problem.
Mathis has made two Pro Bowls since signing his five-year, $25 million contract in 2012. He skipped voluntary workouts last year and got the Eagles to agree to let him seek a partner for a trade. As Kelly sharply pointed out during the draft, the Eagles received no offers for Mathis from other teams.
Still, the Eagles find themselves in a spot, as well. Kelly went out and traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford and his twice-torn left ACL. It seems like a foolish move indeed to have Bradford line up behind a pair of new guards. Aside from the Mathis crisis, Kelly released right guard Todd Herremans, who then signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Mathis is in that difficult middle ground for players. He has made enough money to retire without having to work again. And yet he has not been paid the maximum based on his value to his team. Since he is, at 33, getting near the end of his career, Mathis also realizes that time is running out to make one last score from his NFL career.
His teammates should sympathize, but they don't. Not really. Left tackle Jason Peters, who is in the same age bracket as Mathis, said Tuesday that the team was prepared to move forward with Allen Barbre at left guard. Young tight end Zach Ertz may find himself in Mathis' situation eventually, but right now, all Ertz sees is that Mathis is the only one of his teammates not working hard at the NovaCare Complex to get better.
"At the beginning of the offseason, guys would talk about it,” Ertz said Tuesday. “But now that the grind is going and we're running our butts off each and every day, we're focused on the guys that are out here."
Mathis is on the outside of that equation. That doesn't make him wrong, but it does reflect his teammates' point of view.
“If he doesn't show up and says it's all about money,” Ertz said, “it's going to be -- the writing is on the wall in that sense. How can you say it's all about money and then miss out on 60Gs when you get fined? I mean, it is what it is. We're not focused on Evan Mathis being here or not being here right now, we're focused on getting better as a team and individually right now."
Mathis has a tough call ahead of him. If he reports to the mandatory camp next week, it will appear that he caved in. If he doesn't, the Eagles will begin fining him and Mathis will face the same conundrum when training camp opens Aug. 2. For now, a situation that seems like it could have been avoided has spiraled into a lose-lose proposition for Mathis and the Eagles.