Quirky Eagles guard Evan Mathis began his press conference by taking a picture of the reporters gathered in the NovaCare auditorium and then sending it out on Twitter. He ended it with a thumbs up as he departed the podium.
In between, Mathis thanked the Eagles organization and expressed his happiness at having signed a 5-year deal as a free agent to remain with the team. Mathis said he is looking forward to “capitalizing on the things we did well and making 2012 a special year.”
“I’m thrilled to be back with this organization,” he said. “I love the things Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman and Andy Reid have done here and the team they’ve built … I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Mathis visited with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday and Friday and got an offer before departing. He then received an offer from the Eagles and headed to his offseason home in Arizona to mull his future.
“It was kinda close,” He said. “I was picking between two organizations that really do things the right way. They’re winning organizations with incredible teams every year. When it came down to it, it was kinda close, but my heart was here …
I knew exactly what I had here. The family atmosphere, the talent on the team ,the talent in the coaching staff and the front office, and the direction the organization was headed.”
Mathis said “they let me know they wanted me back” and it “wasn’t a knock to me and it wasn’t a knock to them of me testing the market.” He said he and Eagles GM Howie Roseman were on the “same page” throughout.
“I had no idea what to expect going into free agency,” he said. “It was 4 o’clock on the 13th and I expected the phone would ring and it didn’t. Is that how this works? … Howie played it real smart … It’s like on eBay when you wait until the last second to bid on something … It was a cool process. I’m really lucky the Ravens got into it so I could get this contract from the Eagles.”
Later, Mathis said because of his unusual path to becoming a starter last year, it was hard to peg what it was worth. He and the Eagles agreed he should test the market.
"My situation's kind of a conundrum. I'm a journeyman-type guy who ends up having a great year and hits the market. Is it because I was in a system? Is it because I'm gonna be good? There's a lot of questions there. Whether or not there was a market was to be determined."
The market Mathis had bounced around before signing a 1-year deal with the Eagles in last year’s truncated offseason.
“I had been on the bottom, cut twice within a year, riding the bench, but working every day to get better,” Mathis said. “I had the opportunity to come play under (offensive line coach) Howard Mudd, I jumped at that. He is one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of the game. If he couldn’t take my game to the next level, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Mathis said he texted Mudd over the weekend and “apologized to him that he is stuck with me for a few more years.” He said he plans to visit with Mudd next week in Arizona. He also called Mudd's presence a "huge factor" in his decision to return.
About his first season with the Eagles, Mathis said, “I had a late start, but made so much progress. I had a pretty decent year, but know there is so much I can do better.”
"In my eyes, my career started last year," Mathis said. "No serious injuries, no tread off my tires, I know I'm 30, but this five-year contract will be no problem to play out for me."
The Eagles also added two interior offensive linemen, signing guard/ center Mike Gibson to a 2-year deal and guard/center Steve Vallos for one.
Gibson was a sixth-round draft choice of the Eagles in 2008. He was signed off the Eagles' practice squad by Seattle in 2009. He played three games in 2009, 14 games (three starts in 2010) and the final three games of last season.
Vallos spent the previous four seasons with Cleveland (2010-11) and Seattle (2008-09), playing in 40 games (eight starts).