Updated: 12:56 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chip Kelly hardly seemed agitated, or even concerned, that another one of his core players is seeking more money.
This time, it’s Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis, who just finished the second year of a five-year extension worth slightly more than $25.5 million.
His $5.14 million cap value in 2014 ranks seventh among offensive guards, though Mathis is considered one of the game’s best interior offensive linemen. His $5.1 million average per year of his deal ranks just 14th among offensive guards.
A league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Eagles began shopping Mathis, 32, last month to gauge his trade value after the lineman had asked for his deal to be reworked.
Kelly, informed of the report Wednesday during his roundtable media session at the owners' meetings, said Mathis’ contract situation isn’t likely to create problems. Mathis, coming off his first Pro Bowl season, has started 47 of the team’s 48 games since he joined the Eagles in 2011.
“Generally, do I worry about Evan? No,” Kelly said. “Evan, you talk about go-to-work lunch pail mentality, that's Evan Mathis. I don't worry about Evan from that standpoint."
Kelly spoke much more openly and directly about Mathis than he did about Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, whose name has swirled in trade reports and rumors for more than two weeks (see story).
Kelly said he hoped all of his players “get paid a billion dollars” and seemed to support the rationale of players who ask for new deals, saying “they can’t do it for the next 40 years.” But Kelly said he didn’t anticipate Mathis’ contract dispute impacting his performance.
Another source close to the situation said it’s too early to worry about Mathis’ contract strategy going forward.
“At the end of the day, when you come to work, if anything is a distraction to you than you aren’t being the best player that you can be,” Kelly said, “and what you can control is how you show up every single day, what your attitude is when you’re in the meeting rooms, what you’re attitude is when you’re on the practice field, what your attitude is when you’re in the weight room.
“And that’s why, when you talk about Evan specifically, I’m not worried about that. Evan has been since Day 1 -- since I got here -- just outstanding, whether it’s in the meeting rooms, or in the weight rooms, on the practice field. He may have played the most snaps in the NFL last year.”
When mentioned to Kelly that NFL history is littered with disgruntled players who let contract problems impact their performance, the second-year coach said he hasn’t yet encountered that problem.
“When it happens, we’ll chat,” he added.
Kelly said Mathis hasn’t expressed any contract gripes with him, but the coach admitted that he defers all contract conversations to general manager Howie Roseman.
A league source said Mathis hasn’t yet considered skipping spring camps or training camp. Stiffer penalties imposed by the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement for missing mandatory camps make it financially crippling to hold out.
According to the CBA, players can be fined $30,000 a day by their respective teams for each missed mandatory practice. A player can eventually be suspended for the year and would receive no pension credit.
Precedent would seem to be a leverage point for Mathis. In the past three years, the Eagles have rewarded two veteran offensive linemen -- left guard Todd Herremans and left tackle Jason Peters -- with redone contracts before each had their contracts expire.
Herremans was nearing 30 in 2012 and had two more years left on his deal before the Eagles added three more years and included a salary hike. Peters, who turned 32 in January, had another year left on his contract and was slated to make $9.9 million in 2014 before the Eagles ripped up his deal and added four more years, although his $9.65 base salary in 2014 remains unchanged in the new deal.
Mathis will be 33 next season, older than Herremans and Peters, and only recently joined the ranks of the elite. A third-round pick by Carolina in 2005, Mathis didn’t really pan out and spent his first six years floating through three teams before joining the Eagles in 2011 and resurrecting his career.
Although he’s started every game for the Eagles since 2011 and played at an extremely high level, he didn’t make his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro until 2013.
Mathis is slated to make $5.5 million in 2015 and $6 million in 2016, but the Eagles are on the hook for just $1 million guaranteed in both seasons. If the team believed Mathis could play at an All-Pro level to three or four more years, it probably would have approached him instead of vice versa.
Regardless, Kelly said contract complaints “are just the nature of what our league is like.”
“In professional sports there is a short amount of time that guys have to play this game and they're trying to get what they can,” he said, “and I certainly understand where they're coming from. And part of being the general manager, cap people, is fitting that all together."