It’s been well documented that the Giants offensive line suffered a severe blow when Will Beatty suffered a pectoral muscle tear and will be sidelined until at least mid season. The Giants plan seems to be shuffling their current roster of offensive lineman to find the best combination of a starting five. Earlier this week, we looked at the players on the roster and suggested an impending disaster looms if a move is not made.
At the conclusion of that article we suggested that Jake Long, coming off of consecutive ACL tears, could be the savior of the offensive line, but a funny thing happened on the way to opening day at AT&T Stadium – Chip Kelly released Evan Mathis. I will admit I did not know a lot about Mathis prior to the weeks leading up to the draft, other than his name, and a good reputation among NFL offensive linemen. When rumors surfaced of his unhappiness in Philadelphia, rapid research revealed him as the top guard in the NFL for the past several seasons according to Pro Football Focus.
Mathis publicly blamed his hold out on dissatisfaction with his current contract, signed in 2012 under the Andy Reid administration, a 5 year, $25.5 million contract that was scheduled to pay him $6.5 million this season, according to overthecap.com. Top left guard Logan Mankins, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is scheduled to make $7 million, causing one to wonder if money is truly the issue.
Chip Kelly runs a different type of program than others in the National Football League. His practices, scrimmages, and games move at a frantic pace designed to keep opposing defenses off balance. His Sports Science fitness and nutrition program is intended to keep the Eagles athletes in top condition to allow them to execute his schemes with the same efficiency in the fourth quarter as they do in the first. Some players embrace Kelly’s program, and some find it less than ideal. Kelly has been weeding out players who are not sold on his methods as he’s purged the Eagles roster this off season.
Mathis’ contract dissatisfaction may be a smoke screen to stay away from the high speed “voluntary” Organized Team Activities and Kelly’s waiver of him is the team’s official response. Also 33 years old, Mathis will see a decline in his skills sooner rather than later, but he would fit nicely in the Giants offensive line in 2015. His addition would allow Justin Pugh to shift back to right tackle and send Marshall Newhouse back to the swing tackle position that he was signed to play.
Geoff Schwartz would then be able to play his natural position of right guard, relegating ineffective run blocker John Jerry to a backup position, one the veteran is best suited for. Ereck Flowers, the left tackle elect, would benefit from playing next to an experienced and talented left guard, stabilizing the Giants offensive line.
But what of Long? His continuing rehab appears to have the Giants wary of bringing him into the fold, and the coaching staff wants to give Flowers an opportunity to take hold of the starting job. If Flowers struggles, Long could still be added later if he is not signed elsewhere. Pugh could also be tried at left tackle, although his short arms make him a poor left tackle prospect.
Mathis’ addition would make the following configuration the favorite to take the field against Dallas on opening night:
Left Tackle: Ereck Flowers, Left Guard: Evan Mathis, Center: Weston Richburg, Right Guard: Geoff Schwartz, Right Tackle: Justin Pugh. This Giants offensive line has the potential to power the offense, featuring Eli Manning firing passes to Odell Beckham, jr. and Victor Cruz and Andre Williams running the ball, that can score 30 points or more per game, and give Steve Spagnuolo time to bring the defense back into championship form.
The biggest obstacle to signing Mathis is not salary cap, the Giants have the space to fit him, but convincing Mathis that the team is a contender. Most veterans seek to play for a team that has a shot to deliver the elusive Super Bowl ring as the end of their career beckons. The Giants 6-10 record in 2014 will work against them in this regard. Their strongest attribute is their schedule, with two games against Kelly’s Eagles. Mathis will undoubtedly want revenge for being released, and what better way to get it than in the uniform of the Eagles most hated division rival.
Jerry Reese should already be on the phone to Mathis’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, making his pitch with the opportunity for revenge included in his opening salvo. John Mara’s playoffs or bust ultimatum for 2015 should also provide some confidence in Mathis that the team is serious about winning another championship. Mathis could be the missing piece to the Giants offensive line puzzle that makes Coughlin’s third Lombardi trophy a reality.