And will he be worth the dollar, dollar bills?
For three seasons, Jordan Matthews has donned a number of hats for the Eagles.
In his rookie season, he played the role of surprisingly great second-round rookie, sliding in behind Jeremy Maclin and learning from one of the hardest workers in the NFL.
His second year, Matthews found himself thrust into the forefront of the Eagles’ wideout corps, peerless in a sea of otherwise average players, and caught nearly 1,000 yards while dropping just a few too many passes. Matthews also became one of the team’s most vocal players in the locker room, an ebullient personality in a lost season.
And this past year? Matthews was basically the only functional wide receiver the Eagles had. He dealt with his first injury that forced him to miss a game. He kept dropping a few too many passes.
It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good, and now with one year left on his rookie contract and the Eagles radically shifting their stock of wide receivers this offseason, Matthews’ future with the Birds is uncertain. They were reportedly listening to offers for an unnamed wide receiver, who may or may not be Matthews! We don’t know!
What we do know is this: Jordan Matthews has played just well enough to earn a good amount of money next offseason, but not well enough to convince us he’ll absolutely be worth it.
So while it’s way too early to start thinking about next March, it really isn’t because this is the NFL. And free agency just concluded, with a number of wide receivers landing varying degrees of intriguing contracts which could tell us a thing or two about the kind of money the Eagles will need to shell out if they decide keeping Matthews is the correct decision when it comes time.
Kenny Britt: 4 years, $32.5M, $10.5M fully guaranteed
Per 16 games, since 2014: 52 receptions on 91 targets for 828 yards and 4 TDs
Let’s begin with Kenny Britt. At 28 years old, Britt’s worth and role is well-established in the league. He’s a good-not-great, starting-level wide receiver who can stretch the field (his 15.9 yards per reception since 2014 certainly isn’t too shabby) but, generally, doesn’t win you games consistently.
This past offseason he was three years older than Jordan Matthews will be next spring. What he had going for him, though, was a great 2016: he put up career numbers, hauling in 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns while playing with the gosh darn Rams, who didn’t have a single quality quarterback on their roster.
Those numbers are what brought Britt his $32.5 million contract, not the 828 yards per season over three years. For Britt, it was about timing, and he hit free agency after the best year of his career.
Kenny Stills: 4 years, $32M, $17M fully guaranteed
Per 16 games, since 2013: 42 catches on 70 targets for 695 yards and 5 TDs
Stills was a very hot name leading into free agency, and for some time it was thought he might make upwards of $10 million annually, but in the end he landed at $8 million AAV, which is probably a closer to what he deserves, if not a slight overpay on the Dolphins’ part.
But they were willing to overpay him a little bit because he’s 24 years old. He turns 25 in a month, but the exact number isn’t important. What those two numbers represent is upside, and with a player whose primary skill is utilizing his speed, it’s good to lock him up when he’s young and that speed is still very much intact.
Stills’ per-16 game numbers in the first four years of his career, two of which were spent with Drew Brees, aren’t as eye-popping as you’d imagine. But, along with his age, Stills’ yards per reception (16.5), catch rate on targets (60%), and touchdown rate per reception (11.9%, more than three percent better than any other free agent WR) are why teams valued him so much.
His numbers in the aggregate pale next to those of Matthews, but Stills’ impact on a single target is gigantic.
Pierre Garçon: 5 years, $47.5M, $17.5 fully guaranteed
Per 16 games, since 2014: 73 receptions on 110 targets for 857 yards and 4 TDs
Garçon’s case is obviously unique, because he signed with a team flush with cash. But his production, which is eerily similar to that of Matthews, is also why.
Seriously, for one second, take a look at Garçon vs. Matthews:
Per 16 games, since 2014
Garçon: 73 receptions on 110 targets for 857 yards and 4 TDs
Matthews: 78 receptions on 121 targets for 929 yards and 6 touchdowns
Catch rate on targets
Anyway, with Garçon, like with Matthews, you know exactly what you’re getting. There’s very little risk, but the upside is also limited, which is why if he’d signed with any team other than the 49ers, this contract would’ve looked substantially different. Still, he’s getting paid the money, and if Matthews can find a team with an abundance of cap room next offseason, he might be able to pull off something similar.
So, a few takeaways from looking at these players and their respective contracts:
- Upside tends to get players good money, like Stills’ $8M AAV. Matthews, while still young, seems to be a known entity in the league: a very good slot receiver but not much else.
- A career year, obviously, will pique teams’ interest. It’ll make your stats look better in the aggregate, it’ll put your career in an “upward trajectory” light, and it’ll take advantage of general managers with short memories.
- Consistency is rewarded. Garçon, while 30 years old and probably past the absolute prime of his career, is still very good and very reliable, and he was rewarded with more money than he’s worth.
Matthews’ 2017 production, in a much more crowded WR corps, will partially inform what his future holds, but it won’t dictate it entirely. He’s shown through three years what he can be when in the right situation.
He’s also shown he and Carson Wentz work well together, which is priceless when you’re building a team around one central piece. Matthews is a locker room favorite of many players, and always puts a good foot forward for the franchise. How much is that worth to Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas, both of whom emphasized the importance of relationships at Alshon Jeffery’s introductory press conference?
There are no clear-cut answers here, and we still have plenty to sift through, especially with one season left on Matthews’ contract. He’s shown plenty to like, but a little to be worried about. Whether the Eagles will think highly enough of what they’ve seen from Matthews through (what will then be) four years to pay the man remains to be seen.
This post first appeared on Bleeding Green Nation, A Philadelphia Eagles Commu, please read the originial post: here