Philadelphia Eagles News

Mathis Thrilled With His New Deal

This is how he celebrates? Bench presses and dead lifts less than an hour after it was announced that Mathis, a huge priority for the Eagles to retain, had a new contract in place that give him the most financial and professional stability in his NFL career?

Talk about a party ...

Truth is, that's just how Mathis is, what he's all about. His hard work has helped his reach this point, and after considering an offer from the Ravens, Mathis made the choice to remain an Eagle and to give the offensive line a second year of continuity, something it hasn't had in a long, long time.

"I am very honored to have found a home with an organization as great as the Eagles," said Mathis. "The choice was between two classy organizations and I have the utmost respect for everything Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, and the Baltimore Ravens represent. They made it a tough decision but my heart was in Philly."

Mathis signed on last year in the summer free-agency period and while he isn't the box-office draw that Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin or Cullen Jenkins are, Mathis was every bit of a big hit for the Eagles. He moved into the starting lineup during training camp and then flourished under line coach Howard Mudd, played the best football of his life and helped anchor an offensive line that went through a lot of changes, grew up a lot and then came together in the second half of the season. 

You think about where the offensive line was a year ago and compare it to now: Mudd was the new line coach, and he had very little idea of what he would be working with. Jason Peters was the left tackle. Todd Herremans was the left guard. Mike McGlynn was the center, and Jamaal Jackson was expected to challenge. The Eagles had Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles at right guard, although both would be unrestricted free agents. Really, then, there wasn't a right guard. At right tackle, Winston Justice was hoping to bounce back from an injury.

Now all five starters return. Center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins enter their second seasons after promising rookie years. Mathis was named the league's best left guard in a study done by ProFootballFocus.com covering the 2011 season. Peters has been to three straight Pro Bowls. Herremans moved to right tackle, had a fine year, and last week signed a contract extension through 2017.

The present, the future, all of it is so bright.

"Bringing the entire o-line back will allow us to parlay the high energy we showed at the end of the season last year into a great 2012 season," said Mathis. "We will dedicate ourselves to working every day to get better. We have a lot of talent on the line and it's up to us to deliver.

For Mathis, Philadelphia is home, sweet home after playing in Carolina, Miami and Cincinnati. He is in the right system, in the right locker room and he has the right coach who believes in what Mathis can accomplish.

There was a curious feeling about Mudd when he came out of retirement to coach here. Was he as good as his reputation? Would he still have the fire to get down in the trenches every day?

Was what Mudd taught 10, 20 years ago still effective in today's NFL, away from the success he had in Indianapolis?

Watching Mathis' play, and having the line come together, certainly validated Mudd's street cred, if it needed any validation. 

"He is the best offensive line coach in the game," said Mathis. "I am eternally grateful for the strides I have made under his tutelage and I'm looking forward to much greater things ahead."

Mathis' deal made for another strong move in free agency for the Eagles, who have followed the bluepint to date. They've taken care of their own. They've added to the excellent core of players signed to long-term deals. They have monitored the market and seen that it hasn't been all that popping for a lot of players. There is still talent on the streets. The values are going to be had in the next few days, and even beyond that.

By locking up Mathis and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive end Trent Cole and Herremans, and by trading Justice and releasing Jackson, the Eagles have cleared cap space and at the same time extended contracts of some deserving players.

Next? You would think a dip into the free-agency pool would be coming soon, but the Eagles have no visits ready to announce.

They are moving at the pace they hoped to have, and on Saturday they signed one of the best players on the market, one who happened to be an Eagle last year. Evan Mathis is in the books for five seasons, not cutting any corners along the way. He is all about hard work, an approach that has paid off handsomely as Mathis hits his football stride.

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