It’s always an uneasy feeling when a free-agent target leaves town without agreeing to a deal.
After departing Baltimore on Friday to ponder an offer from the Ravens, free-agent guard Evan Mathis has decided to remain in Philadelphia, signing a five-year deal with the Eagles. The deal is worth $25 million and includes $7 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Mathis visited the Ravens on Thursday and remained in town overnight before flying back to Arizona on Friday to mull over offers from the Ravens and the Eagles. The 30-year-old left guard received his first opportunity to become a full-time starter in his first season with Philadelphia last year, likely leaving him with a special loyalty to the Eagles.
“To all the Eagles fans who offered me various food and incentives to return… I’ve come to collect,” Mathis wrote on his official Twitter page shortly before official word of the agreement broke.
Mathis ranked as the top left guard in the NFL last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
With Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs signing a five-year deal to join the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, the Ravens were hoping to welcome Mathis to Baltimore as an unspectacular but solid replacement. Baltimore re-signed veteran Matt Birk to stabilize the center position on Friday, but there remains a hole at left guard with dwindling options remaining on the free-agent market.
Vernon Carey, Jake Scott, Robert Gallery, and Bobbie Williams are available options, but all would be considered a significant step back from Grubbs. Two sleeper options recovering from injuries would be former Browns guard Eric Steinbach (missed the 2011 season due to back surgery) and Cowboys free-agent guard Montrae Holland, who tore his biceps muscle in late December.
The Ravens will likely look to April’s draft for interior line help, but the consensus top-ranked guard David DeCastro of Stanford will likely be off the board long before the 29th pick. Other potential options in the late-first and second rounds include Cordy Glenn of Georgia, Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin, and Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele.
As far as potential options already on the roster, there has been some speculation that 2011 third-round pick Jah Reid could potentially move to guard. The 6-foot-7, 324-pound Central Florida product would be taller than the prototypical interior lineman, but Reid spent time practicing at guard late in the season when Marshal Yanda was dealing with rib and leg injuries. However, this would appear to be nothing more than a fallback option so early in the offseason.