More Sports:

January 06, 2017

Should the Eagles try to extend Jordan Matthews' contract?

During the 2016 offseason, the first opportunity they got, the Philadelphia Eagles proactively signed two players from their 2013 draft class -- OT Lane Johnson and TE Zach Ertz -- to long-term contract extensions in January. The Ertz and Johnson deals kicked off Howie Roseman's eventful first offseason after returning from "Storage B" of the NovaCare Complex.

The 2017 offseason will be the Birds' first opportunity to sign players that they selected in the 2014 NFL Draft to contract extensions. The most notable player from that class is wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

Over his first three seasons in the NFL, Matthews has produced good (though not great) numbers.

 Jordan MatthewsRec Yards YPC TD 
 201467 872 13.0 
 201585 997 11.7 
 201673 804 11.0 
 TOTAL225 2673 11.9 19 

When asked whether his ears were open to a new deal or if he was comfortable rolling the dice and playing out the final year of his rookie contract, Matthews noted that the coaching staff change may have hurt him from a money perspective.

"I don't feel like, obviously, the team got to see everything that I truly got better at, at a consistent level moving from my second to my third year. I think that's one thing that obviously I was upset about. But as far as all that, I don't like to get into (the money talks) too much.

"At the end of the day, I love playing with these guys. I love playing here. So when those conversations happen, they'll happen, it'll be a lot of stuff that's over my head, and then when I get involved with it I'll share my opinion and we'll move forward, but I'm just going to come to work regardless and whatever happens, happens."

Last offseason, in a weak wide receiver free agent group, the Detroit Lions' Marvin Jones cashed in on three "good-not-great" seasons that he had with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2012-2015 (with one lost season in 2014 due to an ankle injury). Jones signed a five-year deal worth $40 million, with $20 million in total guarantees of which $13 million is fully guaranteed. 

Jones represents the best comparison in last year's free agency class, stats-wise, to Matthews. Here were Jones' numbers his first three years in the NFL, prior to getting paid:

 Marvin JonesRec Yards YPC TD 
 201218 201 11.2 
 201351 712 14.0 10 
 201565 816 12.6 
 TOTAL134 1729 12.9 15 

And now let's take a look at Jones' first three years in the league vs. Matthews':

 Matthews vs. JonesRec Yards YPC TD 
 Jordan Matthews225 2673 11.9 19 
 Marvin Jones134 1729 12.9 15 

As you can see, Matthews had 91 more receptions, 944 more yards, and four more touchdowns in his first three full seasons in the NFL than Jones. 

Last offseason, Matthews watched as teammates like Ertz, Johnson, Vinny Curry, Sam Bradford, Malcolm Jenkins, and Fletcher Cox all received lucrative contract extensions. With the salary cap moving up this offseason, do you think Matthews' agent will be asking for significantly more than the $8 million per year that a less productive Jones received last offseason?

(Shakes Magic 8 ball)...

"Um, Yes."

Matthews still struggles with drops, and is not a consistent big play threat. For example, in 2016, Matthews had just one reception of 40+ yards. 67 players had at least two, 42 had at least three, 26 had at least four, and 10 had at least five. Questions also remain whether Matthews can only be effective in the NFL as a slot receiver, as opposed to a receiver who can also be a threat on the outside.

In his season-ending press conference, Carson Wentz was asked if every quarterback needs a "No. 1 receiver," with the reporter noting that he didn't already have one.

"I thought we did a good job of spreading the ball around," said Wentz. "I think that was kind of part of the game plan going into the season. We had a number of weapons that can get the job done, so we just look for mismatches. That's the biggest thing, from Jordan Matthews, when he was in the slot, to Ertz on safeties and linebackers. Sproles always creates mismatches outside. With Nelson and DGB and some of the younger guys stepping up, I thought we did a good job of spreading the ball around, for sure." 

Wentz was able to get himself to say out loud that Nelson Agholor "stepped up," and yet, referred only to Matthews as a guy who creates mismatches when he plays in the slot.

When asked if he would like a weapon who is always a mismatch for the defense no matter who covers him, Wentz replied, "That's always helpful, but at the end of the day we were very confident in the guys we had nonetheless."

OK, so we've established that Matthews is not a "No. 1 receiver." Yes, I know... "Duh."

Whatever it is you think of Matthews, ranging from a high-end No. 2 to a good No. 3, the Eagles are unlikely to pay him commensurately with the market that was set by Jones last offseason.

...which means that Matthews is probably going to head into the 2017 season playing out the final year of his rookie contract.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

Like Jimmy on Facebook.