One of the brighter spots on the Chargers roster in the past handful of years has also been one of the most frustrating—running back. The Los Angeles Chargers appear to finally have some consistency in the position and a whole lot of talent that has proven capable of taking off.
Ryan Mathews was, within recent memory, a threat on the field for the Chargers. He was drafted as the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft. He made the Pro Bowl (as an alternate for Ray Rice, but still—) as early as 2011. In 2013 he led the NFL with six 100-yard games and 1,255 yards on the season (and one game with 99 yards against the Raiders, so basically 7 triple-digit games). It was injury woes that ended his time in San Diego. He built a reputation as a guy who could do great things if he could just stay healthy, but that was a huge IF.
Ryan Mathews has talent—and a lot of it. When he was taken in by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, he joined a dysfunctional team that already brought in DeMarco Murray from the Cowboys that same off-season. He was not the premier back, and he wasn’t on a team that was destined to soar. By the end of the season, Philly had kicked coach Chip Kelly out of town and Murray (and QB Sam Bradford) soon followed.
Ryan Mathews contributed for 661 rushing yards and eight touchdowns (along with 13 receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown) in 2016 over 13 games. He was placed on IR for a herniated disc in December and has been slowly healing since.
The Eagles have him on the third year of his 3-year contract, but they don’t appear to be waiting for the results of his latest physical. They made a big splash this off-season by bringing in LeGarrette Blount to be the Incredible Hulk for their goal-line drives. They still have the infinitely youthful Iron Man that is Darren Sproles doing wonders all over the field. A young assortment of future Avengers also rounds out their arsenal, waiting for their chance to shine. In short-- the Eagles are just waiting for Mathews to pass his physical so that they can cut him and save $4 million in cap space.
There is a chance that they could still hold on to him, but it seems clear that they’re not going to count on him at all. In fact, their moves indicate that they could let him go as soon as today.
Should the Bolts consider bringing back Ryan Mathews?
Many fans have a gut reaction to say NO. They’ve been burned too many times. Others still love him for being the closest thing to LaDainian Tomlinson that we’ve seen in recent memory.
I think that there is probably a Goldilocks price for Mathews that would be enough to compensate him fairly and protect any team that gives him another shot. He certainly deserves to see the field again, and I think that the Chargers should give him a fair look if he becomes available. Obviously, all of this is academic if the Eagles don’t release him or he looks for $4+ million per year again. Mathews has the talent to oust the likes of Andre Williams or even Kenjon Barner on the field.
If he’s interested in retiring a Charger (granted, it’s early, but he’s likely on the downhill slope of a running back career), perhaps the stars can align (and hometown discount apply) to bring him back in blue.
-Goro “Running Back to the Future” Saurus