Players Say ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind’ With Mathis
Asked about the absence of Evan Mathis, Zach Ertz invoked a saying Jim Harbaugh used during their time together at Stanford.
“I hate to say it, but a college coach of mine said, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, and that’s kind of what we have,” said Ertz. “We have a very good group of offensive linemen. I have a lot of faith in them. Obviously I love Evan, I wish he was here, but at the same time we’re focused on the guys that are here.
“At the beginning of the offseason guys would talk about it, 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 has been absent for the entire offseason program to date. OTAs are scheduled to wrap on Thursday. Attendance has been optional to this point. Next week’s minicamp (June 16-18), however, is mandatory. Mathis faces a maximum of $60,000 fine if he decides to skip the three-day program.
“If he doesn’t show up and says it’s all about money, it’s going to be… the writing is on the wall in that sense,” said Ertz. “How can you say it’s all about money and then miss out on 60 G’s 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.”
Chip Kelly told reporters before practice Tuesday that he has not spoken with Mathis. At some point, he’ll need to figure out whether he’s going to be part of the team or not. Asked how he plans to proceed in that respect, Kelly said, “We’ll just take it as it comes.”
For now, they have no choice but to operate as if he is not part of the equation. Allen Barbre has been consistently working alongside Jason Peters at left guard during practice, while there has been more of a rotation at right guard that includes Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner.
“It’s Al right now. That’s who we’re rolling with,” said Peters. “Right now if we had to play, Al is going to be the starter.”
Would you miss Mathis, though?
“No, I mean, not really,” said Peters. “I’ve been playing beside different guys every year, so it doesn’t really matter who is beside me. I just need to get the chemistry with them and get ready for the season.”
Peters said that he texted with Mathis a couple weeks back, but it wasn’t about anything football-related.
“That’s his own mindset. There ain’t nothing you can do with a guy like that, trying to get more money or whatever he’s trying to do. I’m just kind of here to do my job, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Money is most definitely the root of the problem. As you can see in this breakdown from Spotrac, Mathis’ contract is on the low side relative to some of the other top guards in the game.
The argument can be made that Mathis has outperformed his current deal and deserves to be more in line with some of the other top earners at his position. It’s understandable that Mathis, who has earned a pair of Pro Bowl berths and All-Pro honors in the last two seasons, believes he’s earned a raise.
It’s also understandable that the Eagles are hesitant to give him one. For one, he is going to be 34 in November. Secondly, Mathis has two years left on a deal that he willingly signed as a free agent back in 2012. The team is likely concerned about the type of precedent they might set if they decide to rip up the contract.
Some potential middle ground in this standoff — something that Adam Caplan alluded to recently — is tweaking the deal so more money can be earned if he hits certain incentive markers. While that makes some sense, it seems unlikely that the Eagles will budge.
And so, the standoff continues.
Mathis’ decision about whether to attend the mandatory minicamp will be telling. In the meanwhile, the players are trying to keep the focus on the guys that they know will be here.
“We’ve got a group of guys out there that have put in the work, been here since April,” said Peters. “Right now, Al Barbre is the starter. Don’t know if Evan shows up, he’ll get his spot back. Don’t know. It’s all about what the coaches do.”