The Eagles backfield got a little less crowded Tuesday when the team releasing veteran RB Ryan Mathews, who had just finally returned to good health after dealing with a neck injury all offseason.
The move saves Philadelphia $3 million against the cap and should open up more opportunities for rookie RB Donnel Pumphrey, provided he can solve his fumble issues, which have plagued him during camp. The fourth-round pick now figures to be LeGarrette Blount’s main backup in 2017.
As for Mathews, he should have plenty of suitors. Sure, he’s injury prone and doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but Mathews is a solid back who can break tackles and take advantage of good blocking. He was playing his best football before an injury ended his season late in December. Over his last five games, Mathews averaged 16 carries for 75 yards (4.73 yards per carry) per game and found the end zone three times. That stretch included games against the Ravens, Seahawks and Giants.
There are several playoff hopefuls that can use his services in 2017. Let’s take a look at some potential landing spots…
1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are heading into the season with a converted wide receiver (Ty Montgomery) starting at running back and a rookie fourth-round pick (Jamaal Williams) as his biggest competition. And neither Montgomery nor Williams looked particularly good in the first preseason game. If Green Bay doesn’t want to put the entire offense on Aaron Rodgers’ shoulders (again), the notoriously stingy Ted Thompson should give Mathews a serious look. The Packers defense could certainly use the help, too. Mathews would help sustain drives and keep the defense off the field.
With Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott suspended for the first six games of the season, signing Mathews would make the Packers the favorite in the NFC.
2. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck needs some help in the form of a reliable running game. A combination of Mathews and Frank Gore wouldn’t scare defenses but it would command respect from them. Gore is 34 and in need of a capable backup. Robert Turbin is not that guy. Mathews, if healthy, might even threaten Gore’s spot in the starting lineup.
Indianapolis can’t have Luck dropping back 50 times a game once again in 2017; he takes too many hits as it is. The fewer times Indy can expose him to possible hits, the better. Signing Mathews would bring balance to the offense and protect the team’s most prized possession.
3. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are deep at running back, but good depth does not always equal good talent.
C.J. Anderson’s best days are behind him. Devontae Booker is still an unknown. Intriguing rookie DeAngelo Henderson is even more of an unknown. Given the state of the quarterback situation, Denver will need its running game to be productive in 2017. Mathews would give the Broncos a veteran presence who still has some good football left in his legs. They currently do not have that on the roster.
John Elway seems to be interested in the veteran back based on his Twitter activity…
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