“EAGLES Matthews Seems Destined To Play The Slot”. That was the headline for an article on Philly.com. I run a Facebook Eagles group called Eagles Maniacs where a similarly titled article also popped up. While the use of Jordan Matthews as a slot WR is a detrimental to the whole Offense, I also don’t like the split it’s setting up between Matthews and the Eagles.
Before you dismiss that as crazy, point to the time where I’ve been wrong about the Eagles losing a player…You can’t, because I haven’t been. EVER. Now let’s continue.
The headline is 100% accurate. “Eagles Matthews seems destined to play the slot”. Key word there is ‘Eagles’. Once he goes elsewhere, he will be allowed to line up as a starter on the outside. You’ll see him do things for other some other offense, that he has not been allowed to do here. Yes, I said and meant the word ‘allowed’. I will get into that later down the page.
Why would the Eagles intentionally hold back their own player’s potential? Two words: Price Control. The Eagles don’t want Matthews outside on the edge yet, (emphasis on ‘yet’), because once his (4y/4.94M) rookie deal is up after 2017, they’ll have to negotiate with him at market price.
For perspective, the most expensive slot WR you can think of was Wes Welker. In 2007 Welker signed an extension in New England for 5y/18.1M. In 2012 it was a one year franchise tag of 9.15M. He went to Denver in 2013 for 2y/12M. Collectively that’s 8y/39.6M, or roughly 4.95M per year.
The market for outside guys? Here are 5 guys who finished within 10 receptions of Matthews in 2015: A.J. Green 5y/70M (14py); Randall Cobb 4y/40M (10py); Golden Tate 5y/31M (6py); Eric Decker 5y/36M (7py); Jeremy Maclin 5y/55M (11py). I didn’t even touch the Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson echelon of WR. I kept it where Matthews would be if his rookie deal were up today. Keep in mind that with inflation, those numbers will be higher in 2018, and things will also have to be bent around Fletcher Cox‘s impending contract.
Relegating Matthews as a slot WR changes his market and drops his price tag. Sure, after he’s re-signed the Eagles could always move him outside, and they’d have an outside guy at a bargain bin price. Sounds smart at first. The problem with that: If I can figure that ruse out, you can bet your ass that Matthew’s agent sees it too and is preparing his client.
Let’s recall two other players the Eagles tried to save a buck on: Reggie White and Brian Dawkins. Here’s another: Terrell Owens. Let’s do one more: Evan Mathis. Nickel and diming players has always blown up in this franchise’s face, and we always ended up needing the player, more than player needed to be here. Every one of those guys had success where they went next, and we ended up with holes that in some cases took years to fill. Why do that again? Especially considering that with the picks we traded away, it’ll be harder than normal to replace him.
I mentioned earlier that Matthews could be doing more for the Offense, if he lined up on the outside. Here’s what I mean. Matthews is a big WR who actually plays like one. He’s not the sort of WR that a CB wants to have to handle alone, after the catch. That means sliding a Safety out of the box and farther outside towards him. Not only would this loosen things inside for the running game, but it would open room to roam for a TE like Zach Ertz.
Cramming Matthews inside lets teams to keep a Safety in the box, which allows their LB’s to key on the run. How did Matthews in the slot played out for us? Well just look at us over the last two years. Our run game was sputtering even in LeSean McCoy‘s last year here, and it was all but dead last year. On the outside we had no mismatches to exploit, and it did nothing to make life easier on anyone. The results speak for themselves.
This is a naked attempt at price control and nothing more. It was cute of Head Coach Doug Pederson to say that Matthews will be “moved around” this year. It’ll be interesting to see how often Matthews starts games in the slot, vs how many times in a game he’s motioned to the outside.
All I can do at this point, is hope that Pederson has a change of heart. Or that others see what I see, give the Eagles hell for it, and maybe help shame them into doing what’s right.
If Matthews leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns again it won’t matter where they play him, cause they will have to pay him. I wonder what this offense is going to look like now. No FB and their best receiver in the slot seems like a lot of three wide sets. It seems to be less like a traditional WCO and closer to something the Bills ran when they had Jim Kelly. Personally I would have liked to see Matthews on the outside and the smaller speedsters like Huff and Givens in the slot.
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I love the idea of Givens in the slot. I don’t understand why teams don’t employ speedsters there. You almost can’t reliably jam a WR (so that’s a clean release) and it wouldn’t allow for teams to walk a Safety up, since 99% of Safeties lack that sort of speed to begin with. If you walk one into the box there’s no way he can recover on a deep ball. It turns into a game of catch.