An offseason full of eye-opening moves just got wackier for the Cowboys' green rivals to the northeast, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles ended a contract dispute with All-Pro guard Evan Mathis on Thursday, resolving to cut the veteran offensive lineman rather than give him the pay raise he was seeking. Mathis missed the entirety of the voluntary portion of the Eagles' offseason program, and he was expected to miss next week's mandatory minicamp, as well.
The news comes as a bit of a shock, but maybe it shouldn't, given the volatile nature of Philadelphia's offseason. Days before free agency started in March, the Eagles traded All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso.
Immediately after that, they dealt Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles to St. Louis in exchange for Sam Bradford, and they signed Cowboys All-Pro DeMarco Murray to a lucrative free agent contract. That doesn't factor the loss of Jeremy Maclin in free agency, and it also doesn't include the rampant speculation that third-year coach Chip Kelly might make an audacious draft-day trade to acquire Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
That didn't wind up happening, but the decision to release Mathis emphasizes the type of daring personnel moves the Eagles have been making in the last two or three months.
To be fair, this move was a little more forced than some of the others. Mathis wanted a larger contract after back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances, as his existing deal was set to pay him just $5.5 million. The Eagles didn't want to do that, considering he missed eight games with an MCL sprain in 2014 – not to mention the fact that he's 33 years old.
It's still a troubling for a development for a team that just spent $42 million on Murray. I have no desire to knock the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and I basically think it's silly to imply that he left yards on the field during his phenomenal 2014 season. That said, he still touched the rock an absurd 498 times in 18 games last year, and his ground-and-pound style could use an All-Pro working the interior of the line, right in front of him.
On top of that, what about Bradford? The former No. 1 overall pick could potentially be a great quarterback, but we basically don't know if he is because he can't stay healthy. Torn ACLs have kept him out of 25 of his last 32 games over the last two seasons in St. Louis. He also missed six games in 2011 with a high ankle sprain.
To recount, the guy widely expected to win the Eagles' starting quarterback job has appeared in just 49 of a possible 80 games since his NFL career began. Philadelphia still has stalwart Jason Peters protecting the left side of the line, but losing Mathis could mean Bradford's pocket is nowhere near as clean as he'd prefer.
It also raises questions about the guard position as a whole. The Eagles released right guard Todd Herremans at the outset of the offseason. They have several guys with starting experience in Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner, but they'll have to find two starters between those four.
There's been no shortage of surprises for the Eagles in the last few months, but this one has the potential to be the most painful – particularly with the investments now sitting in their backfield.