Mathis: 'I'd like to return'

Evan Mathis wants to remain an Eagle.

The Eagles left guard, who will become an unrestricted free agent on March 13, said during a Q&A via e-mail that he was under the impression the Eagles want him back, as well.

Sounds like a perfect marriage, right? With free agency, though, nothing is certain.

Mathis, a seven-year veteran, is coming off his best season. And after playing on a one-year, league minimum salary last year, he will certainly be looking for some security. So no one could fault the 30-year old if he chooses to sign with the highest bidder.

But will there be many bidders? There are sure to be several even if some teams are put off by Mathis' 22 career starts before this season. He had, by even the lowest of estimates, a solid season. Some may even say great. In certain circles he was Pro Bowl worthy.

Mathis flourished under offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Signed amid a flurry of high-priced free agent acquisitions during training camp, Mathis slipped into Lehigh virtually unnoticed. By the start of the season, though, everyone knew who he was.

With right tackle a camp-long issue, Eagles coach Andy Reid was forced to move Todd Herremans from left guard. That move wouldn't have been possible if Reid and Mudd didn't feel comfortable with Mathis as Herremans' replacement.

Mathis rewarded their confidence. With All Pro Jason Peters playing on his left at tackle, Mathis was one of the best run blocking guards in the game. By the end of the season, the Eagles' offensive line was perhaps their most consistent unit.

Needless to say, the Eagles would prefer not to break up their line. Knowing Mudd, though, he probably believes he can turn other journeyman lineman into productive blockers as he did last year with Mathis. Perhaps the Eagles think second-year guard Julian Vandervelde is ready to play.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Mathis fits the Mudd mold perfectly, though. He's athletic, tough and took to Mudd's aggressive blocking techniques. Both the Eagles and Mathis appear to have good reason to come to terms. But as Mathis detailed in the following interview, there are possible obstacles to getting a deal done:

Question: I understand the Eagles can't approach you about a new deal before the start of free agency because you were signed for the league minimum last year. Is that true? If so, is that frustrating or are you excited to see what free agency has to offer?
Mathis: Yes that's true. It guarantees that I will always know what I was worth when I hit the market. I won't have the chance to look back and wonder what could have been if I was to sign a deal before FA.

Q: Do you want to return to the Eagles? If so, would you be willing to give them a home discount?
Mathis: I'd like to return. Of course, just throw me $20 and a pizza and I'm in.

Q: Have you spoken to anyone with the Eagles recently and gotten the impression that they want you back?
Mathis: I do get the impression that they want me back.

Q: Other teams obviously can't approach you yet, but have you heard -- through your agent Drew Rosenhaus -- if other teams are interested and, if so, who they may be? Or how many there are?
Mathis: I believe it's tampering if any NFL teams were to approach myself or my agent before March 13th. However, the LA Dodgers, Allen Wranglers, and WWE have all expressed high interest.

Q:What do you think accounted more for your success in 2011: Your improvement and hard work or playing in Howard Mudd's system alongside Jason Peters?
Mathis: It was a combination of things. First, it was being allowed to play. When I've been on the field, I've always performed well. Add to that the fact that I put in 28 straight weeks of high level training during the lockout. Last but not least, the techniques that Howard taught me made the game much easier for me. It's not about a "system" as much as it is about the techniques. The techniques would work anywhere, Howard's just one of the best OL coaches the game has ever seen and I've been absorbing as much knowledge as I can from him.

Q:With Mudd returning how much will he factor in your decision on whether to re-sign with the Eagles?
Mathis: I learned a lot from him in a short time last year. Being able to learn more in the future is something that would help me grow as a player.

Q: This may be your last chance at a long-term deal, have you set parameters for how many guaranteed years you want?
Mathis:I have no idea what the market will be for me. I'm 30 and some people consider that old by NFL standards. Objectively, I have limited mileage on my body, no serious injuries, a new CBA that focuses on player safety, a gym that will keep me in peak physical condition, and a drive to be the best. I have 6-8 seasons left to play at a very high level. 

Q: If you answered above that you want to return to the Eagles, how confident are you that it will happen?
Mathis: I have no idea how it will all play out. If someone else offered me twice the money and the Eagles wouldn't match it, would it make sense to return? There's just a lot of possible scenarios and factors that are out of my control for me to be confident in predicting anything.

Q: You took some heat about your tweet in Jan. after Jeffrey Lurie said that Andy Reid was returning. Do you regret saying what you said?
Mathis: If I regretted it I would have deleted it. I can be very amicable and approachable but I can also be abrasive and outspoken. I'm mean on the field and that's the only one that matters to me. I also do not regret it because I gave my favorite beat writers some material for the week. And apparently some material for March.

Q: Who's the best tweeter on the Eagles offensive line: You, Jason Kelce or Herremans?
Mathis: Why would you ask such an easy question?