Chip Kelly’s decision to cut Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis last week raised two important issues for the Eagles as they started Day 1 of mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
Who will replace Mathis? And was the casualty a signal to players that if they want out of their contract, they can simply hold out?
“Evan was a good football player,” tight end Zach Ertz said.”I’m not going to deny that, but at the same time we are really confident in the guys we have. At the end of the day we are going to be a better team.”
From a roster standpoint, the team will have no trouble finding veteran experience to step in at both guard positions in place of Mathis and another cut lineman, Todd Herrmenans.
“The good thing is, I have played next to all these guys already during my career,” center Jason Kelce said.”I have played next to [Allen Barbre] for two years in drills, practice and on the field, with Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, Kevin Graf, JulianVandervelde…There still needs to be more cohesion made but as we narrow it down, get more reps and get closer to training camp, I will be able to find out the minor details but I don’t think it’s as drastic a change if it were a guy coming in I had never played with before.”
In stark contrast toKelce, who sites the Birds offensive front as being a deep group, head coach Chip Kelly admits that “depth is an issue for anyone in this league.”
But he does have a lot of confidence in Barbre, who has stepped in all spring in place of Mathis.
“I think Allen Barbre is an outstaying football player,” Kelly said. “Anytime he has had to play for us he played extremely wellfor us. We are excited about moving forward with him.”
So the impact of Mathis’ release may not be as bad for the offensive line as it appeared to at first glance. But what about the impact on the team as a whole?
“One thing that’sbeen preached since day one is this is a culture, this is a team thing,” Kelce said. “Evan had [contract issues]last year too but he showed up still. I don’t know why he was released or anything like that but if you look into it there are somethings that went against the grain.”
The players don’t see it as precedent that they can get what they want by putting a gun to the Eagles’ head. In fact it’s the complete opposite. In a culture of hard-workers and winners, the players want to earn their keep.
“A guy like Connor Barwin, who does everything right, got extended after last year,” Ertz said.”They guaranteed an extra year in his contract. DeMeco Ryans has done everything for this program each and every day and he was rewarded with more guaranteed money.”
“My goal isn’t to be the highest paid tight end my goal is to be the best tight end.”