Giants named one of four potential destinations for Mathis
The situation with all-pro offensive guard Evan Mathis prove once again that if you go up against Chip Kelly, you probably won't get the result you were hoping for. Mathis held out of the Eagles' first three sets of OTA practices and voluntary workouts in hopes of getting paid like one of the top guards in the NFL, and Kelly sent him packing. Now, all NFL teams have the rare opportunity to pursue and sign one of, if not the best offensive guard in the league. Conor Orr, of Around the NFL, believes the New York Giants are one of four teams most likely to land Mathis.
Orr connects the dots that lead him to believe the Giants make the most sense. Here's his breakdown:
Mathis held out of workouts due to a contract dispute and is the latest in a long line of players to defect from Chip Kelly island with a bit of an attitude. Is there a better place for him to go than a division rival that desperately needs help along their offensive line?
The Giants, who have lost left tackle Will Beatty for the foreseeable future, are now depending on rookie Ereck Flowers to hold down the position. Signing Mathis would at least give them an immediate-assistance option to Flowers' inside, or he could give them the flexibility of moving guard/tackle Geoff Schwartz to tackle. Mathis, a zone blocking specialist, would feel relatively at home in a scheme not unlike the one he used to run with Andy Reid. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo brought many zone principles with him from Green Bay.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan has spent time getting to know Mathis, and he believes that winning is important to Mathis and could play a big role in his decision.
If what Caplan assesses is true, Mathis would need to be comfortable with projection. The Giants have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. They finished with a 6-10 record in 2014 and a 7-9 record in 2013. The Giants have made several personnel and coaching changes that could align nicely with the potential production they can add from the return of prominent players who were injured in 2014, but all of that is simply projection.
There's also a question about whether or not the Giants can afford to sign Mathis. According to Overthecap.com, the Giants currently have just over $7 million in salary cap space. This is enough to sign almost any player depending on the structure of the contract. However, signing Mathis would erase any possibility that the Giants could sign Jason Pierre-Paul and/or Eli Manning to a long-term contract before the season.
Mathis wants to be paid like one of the top players at his position. The highest paid left guard in the NFL, Logan Mankins, averages $8.5 million per year. In March, left guard Mike Iupati signed a massive contract in free agency that pays him $8 million per year. This is the target number that Mathis will be aiming for, and he is likely to get there. In two of the last four seasons, Mathis graded out as Pro Football Focus' top offensive guard overall. PFF's Nathan Jahnke illustrates how he performed during the 2014 season:
Mathis is entering his age-34 season, but he claims to be fully healthy after missing seven games due to injury in 2014. A two-year, $16 million contract with good guaranteed money could be enough to get the trick done.
If the Giants were to sign Mathis, he would immediately slot in as their best offensive lineman and most likely their starting left guard. The Giants made the decision to transition Justin Pugh to guard this offseason, and he has since practiced ever snap at left guard. In the event that they sign Mathis, Pugh would likely kick back to the right side and current right tackle Marshall Newhouse would become a reserve tackle. The Giants could still end up using Pugh at right guard in this scenario, if they decide to kick current right guard Geoff Schwartz over to right tackle. From the left to right, their line would most likely be the following: Ereck Flowers, Evan Mathis, Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh, Geoff Schwartz. General manager Jerry Reese claims the team is always looking to upgrade in free agency, and now they have the opportunity to add one of the best players to an offensive line that has major question marks.
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