LA Chargers News

Should Chargers take a flier on RB Ryan Mathews?

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20: Running back Ryan Mathews
SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20: Running back Ryan Mathews

The Philadelphia Eagles released RB Ryan Mathews Tuesdsay, saving $4 million in cap space, per Should the Los Angeles Chargers consider bringing him back on the cheap?

Not long ago, Ryan Mathews was the Chargers’ starting running back.

In 2010, the Chargers paid a hefty price to get Mathews, trading their first-round pick (28th overall), second-round pick, fourth-round pick and linebacker Tim Dobbins to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 12 overall pick. He was supposed to be the heir apparent to Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, who signed with the New York Jets that same year.

Unfortunately, the former Fresno State running back never panned out for the Bolts. He only played five seasons for San Diego before signing a three-year, $11 million contract with the Eagles in 2015 free agency. He finished his Chargers career with 4,061 rushing yards, including two 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2011 and 2013), 23 rushing touchdowns, 146 receptions, 1,110 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown and a Pro Bowl nod in ’11. He also had a respectable 4.4 yards-per-carry average over that time.

The thing was, Mathews’ talent was never in question; it was his inability to stay healthy. In five years with the Chargers, he only played one full, 16-game season (’13-his best year as a Charger, which also happened to be the same year current offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was brought in as the OC). Also, he just couldn’t hang onto the football, fumbling a whopping 15 times. Taking over for one of the best running backs to ever play the game didn’t help is cause.

Those issues carried over to Philadelphia. He missed six total games a fumbled six times from 2015-16.

The Eagles signed former Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount in free agency and drafted RB Donnel Pumphrey with one of their two fourth-round picks, which meant Mathews was on his way out. The Eagles officially released the 29-year-old running back Tuesday. Before being cut, Mathews, who was recovering from offseason neck surgery, was medically cleared (I know, ugly business).

If there’s one skill position on offense that could be upgraded, it’d be at running back. Melvin Gordon, who the Chargers also traded up for in the 2015 NFL Draft, is a stud.

But behind him are question marks. Branden Oliver, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles, is the favorite to win the backup RB job. He’s been having a solid camp, and he cut well and showed off his pass-catching skills in the team’s first preseason game. Andre Williams, Kenjon Barner, Kenneth Farrow and Austin Ekeler haven’t made much noise thus far (there’s still time).

I get it: Mathews is an injury-prone player and hasn’t been reliable in the past. That’s OKAY, because he’s not going to be the No. 1 guy. The 6-foot, 220-pounder has the talent and hard running style to form a solid trio with Gordon and Oliver. New head coach Anthony Lynn is going to want to run the ball a lot, so having multiple backs (like Lynn had with LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee in Buffalo last year) is important.

If he signs a cheap, one-year deal, then there’s no risk in bringing him back.