By: Michael Hanley
Chip Kelly and company have found their running back to replace the departed LeSean McCoy as they have signed former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.
The new deal is three years for $11.5 million with $5 million of that guaranteed. It is in line with what other running backs during this free agency have been given from teams, so Philly is not breaking the bank at all on this latest move. The team will be able to continue to make roster moves without too much hindrance from this contract with Mathews.
Ryan Mathews added to the Eagles backfield has sparked some criticism of Kelly and the Eagles front office since the former Charger has had a multitude of problems staying healthy during his career up to this point. A various number of injuries have slowed him from his true potential as a franchise leading running back who could be a weapon that would be respected and feared by opposing defenses.
It is unfortunately what was his downfall in San Diego as they had other running backs come in and be productive at the level that they had expected of Mathews and in even some cases above what Mathews had done at his best. That made him expendable in the Chargers eyes and he was out of their powder blue uniforms after being their 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The buzz he was getting around the league was minimal until the Eagles came calling with a need to fill and a contract to offer.
Some of this is rolling the dice a little bit, making a running back who has not stayed healthy for more than one season your regular starting back. Chip Kelly though only sees the upside and potential that Mathews has shown when he did stay healthy in the 2013 season. In that season, Mathews broke out as a star for the Chargers as he tallied 1,255 yards rushing, including six touchdowns and also showed that he was a capable receiving back as he caught 28 passes from the backfield. He was able to compliment quarterback Phillip Rivers perfectly that season as the Chargers had a very explosive and productive offense that year.
If anyone can draw that type of production from Mathews again it is Chip Kelly. Kelly’s system is based heavily off the run game, which sets up big time plays in the passing game for the offense. Mathews will have plenty of carries to take advantage of and will have holes open up with that offensive line and be able to get those long, productive runs he had back in San Diego.
The fast pace that the Eagles offense also will allow him to get more yards after contact since the offense will be able to wear down defenses late in games which will allow Mathews to finish games for the team and accumulate those crucial yards in crunch time.
The running back market does feature some veterans still available like DeMarco Murray, Steven Jackson and DeAngelo Williams. In my opinion, Mathews though still has the best potential for long term production out of this group and especially one for a fast and break neck pace of a running game like the one Chip Kelly features.
Though it remains to be seen just how this Mathews addition will work for the Eagles, you cannot blame Chip Kelly for being complacent and not willing to make big moves to help improve his team.