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March 06, 2017

Trading Jordan Matthews makes sense for the Eagles

In Jordan Matthews' first three seasons playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, he has racked up 225 catches for 2673 yards and 19 touchdowns. Here's where he ranks in NFL history in those three categories for players in their first three seasons in the NFL:

 225 catches2673 yards 19 touchdowns 
 11th in NFL history59th in NFL history T-76th in NFL history 

Here's where those numbers rank in Eagles history for players in their first three seasons in the NFL:

 225 catches2673 yards 19 touchdowns 
 1st in Eagles history3rd in Eagles history T-3rd in Eagles history 

During those three seasons, Matthews has more than double the number of catches, yards and touchdowns of any receiver who has played for the Eagles during that span.

Yet, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo, the Eagles would be listening if another team liked Matthews and wanted to trade for him.

Wait, what? Why in the hell would the Eagles trade their only productive receiver?

We'll break it down:

1) Matthews catches a lot of passes, but they often aren't high impact plays

Looking forward, Matthews is likely going to carve out a long NFL career making a whole lot of catches from his slot receiver position. He's a high-quality person and teammate who works his ass off and loves the game. There are plenty of reasons to like Jordan Matthews.

However, he 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.

2) Matthews is in the final year of his deal, and highly unlikely to receive a contract extension this offseason

A few days after the end of the Eagles' 2016 season, we came to the conclusion that Matthews was likely not going to receive a lucrative contract extension this offseason.

There are now two different coaching staffs who have determined that Matthews is just a slot receiver, and those guys don't get paid like outside receivers. 

Matthews' camp will point to the production. For example, players like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Kenny Stills, and Terrelle Pryor have all been mentioned as potentially cracking the $10 million per year barrier this offseason, with some players reportedly seeking as much as $15 million per season. Here's a comparison of those four players vs. Matthews over the last three years:

Player Rec Yards YPC TD
Alshon Jeffery 191 2761 14.5 16
DeSean Jackson 142 2702 19 14
Jordan Matthews 225 2673 11.9 19
Kenny Stills 132 2097 15.9 15
Terrelle Pryor 78 1049 13.4 4

As you can see, Matthews is first (by a wide margin) in receptions, first in touchdowns, and third (although less than 100 yards from the leader) in yards. Matthews' agent would be crazy not to ask for money similar to what those players are demanding, and the Eagles would be even crazier to give it to him.

As a result. There's a pretty good chance that Matthews will play out the final year of his deal in 2017 and hit the open market in 2018. Which brings us to the next point...

3) Matthews was not picked by this coaching regime

Yes, Howie Roseman had not yet been ejected from the Football Guy Wing of the NovaCare Complex when the Eagles selected Jordan Matthews in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but make no mistake that Chip Kelly loved him and was the driving force behind that selection.

Prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, Dorial Green-Beckham was a player that Doug Pederson's former team, the Kansas City Chiefs, liked quite a bit. Obviously, we saw that the Eagles traded for him prior to the 2016 season. They were not as high on Matthews. While Doug Pederson may very well like Matthews as an NFL player more than his former team did as a prospect, he's not a player the Chiefs likely would have drafted in the second round, like the Eagles did.

Matthews himself was disappointed that he did not get to show the new coaching regime how he had come along as a player in 2016.

"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," he said. "I think that's one thing that obviously I was upset about."

All the new regime has seen of Matthews was the 2016 season, which was arguably the worst of his career so far. It was his worst season, number-wise, and he often was unable to capitalize on big play opportunities that could have been made.

To date, there has been no indication whatsoever that the Eagles have tried to get a contract extension done with Matthews. By comparison, this time last year, they had already handed out contract extensions to Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Vinny Curry, Sam Bradford, and Malcolm Jenkins.

4) Obviously, the Eagles are going to sign (or trade for) a wide receiver. Or two. Or three.

The Eagles have been the subject of trade rumors for the Saints' Brandin Cooks, and have been linked to almost every prominent receiver that is about to become a free agent. They are going to add a receiver, or two, or three this offseason.

In other words, it's not like if the Eagles traded Matthews, they'd be saying, "OK, it's time to step up, Nelson Agholor." No. There would obviously have to be a sound plan in place to add receiving upgrades.

So what could the Eagles get in return for Matthews?

Yes, Jordan Matthews has good numbers over the first three seasons of his career, but in a way, his numbers almost kind of work against the possibility of him staying an Eagle past 2017. So if you can get something for him now, like, say, a third round pick, it might be wise to take it before you lose him for nothing this time next year.

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