March 02, 2017

An explanation on why Eagles RB Ryan Mathews hasn't been released yet

Eagles NFL
030217RyanMathews Chris Szagola/AP

"Get well soon," the Eagles said to Ryan Mathews. Probably.

On the field during his two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, running back Ryan Mathews was a hard runner who played well at times, and had decent numbers. On the season in 2016, Mathews rushed 117 times for 487 yards and 7 TDs. 

Unfortunately, his fumble against the Detroit Lions arguably cost the Eagles a game. Two weeks later he fumbled in clock-killing time once again against the Minnesota Vikings. That damaged the Eagles' trust in Mathews, as he carried the ball just nine times over the next two games. In 2015, Mathews lost three fumbles on 106 carries.

He has also been injury-prone for the entirety of his career. From 2010 to 2016, Mathews has appeared on the injury report 56 times.

In 2017, Mathews will count for $5 million against the salary cap, $4 million of which the Eagles can save if they trade or cut him. For a guy who is always injured and has ball security issues, it felt like a no-brainer to move on. After he sustained a career-threatening neck injury late in the 2016 season, his release became a near-certainty.

If Mathews had finished the season healthy, the Eagles might have found a trade partner for him, but that is no longer an option, as no team is going to trade for a player of Mathews' caliber at his price tag who suffered C6 and C7 herniated disks. Since there is almost no chance of a trade, why haven't the Eagles just moved on already, like they did with CB Leodis McKelvin? Howie Roseman was asked about Mathews' recovery from surgery, and what impact that would have on whether or not the Eagles would keep him.

"Ryan’s doing great, and we fully expect him to be ready to play," Roseman responded. "He’s under contract, and so, I think it’s as simple as that at this time."

When asked generally about being able to release a player who was injured during the preview season, Roseman said, "It all depends on the specifics of that, and the timeline, it would probably have to be player-specific to answer, but certainly the league rules prohibit you from cutting a player who is injured."

In the last CBA negotiations, the NFLPA was able to gain a better Injury Protection Benefit for their players. An explanation of the Injury Protection Benefit:

The Injury Protection Benefit is a benefit available to a player if he meets the following criteria: (1) Suffers an injury in an NFL game or practice which causes him to be unable to play in all or part of the last game of the season of injury, or, which results in club-authorized offseason surgery; (2) Undergoes reasonable and customary club-required rehabilitation in the offseason following the injury; and (3) Fails the club’s preseason physical for the season following the injury and his contract is terminated.

That could apply to Mathews and CB Ron Brooks, who suffered a torn ACL Week 6 last season. If the Eagles were to cut bait today, for example, they would be releasing each player with a failed physical designation. That could potentially put them on the hook for both players' Injury Protection Benefit, which would be 50 percent of their salaries, up to $1,150,000. By releasing them now, they would either be depending on another team to pass them on a physical to offset that benefit, or be willing to just write the check.

So it may take a little while.


Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

Like Jimmy on Facebook.