ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Evan Mathis, a man who had spent the last 11 years employed by an NFL team, spent the summer of 2015 without a job.
“Definitely a really, really weird experience this offseason and preseason compared to most,” Mathis said today from team headqusrters at Dove Valley.
That changed Tuesday, as the two-time Pro Bowl guard signed a one-year contract with the Denver Broncos. Mathis believes signing with the Broncos may bring some normalcy back to his life.
“Every other year, I was part of everything the whole year,” Mathis said. “This year was after the season was over with, this is my first day back doing anything with a team. That’s a long time. I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend with my wife and two young daughters. We had a good time. I was able to put a lot of good work in. I am just down here to catch up mentally and get ready to go.”
Mathis graded out as one of the best guards in football over his last two years with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, after an extensive contract dispute, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly chose to release him.
“It was a lot of emotions that day,” Mathis said. “Kind of a roller coaster to process all that at once. I had the best four years of my career in Philly, a lot of great memories there. But, when it happened, I think the best outlook I really got from it was just the new opportunity and the new chances I’d be able to have. I was able to make a decision that’s going to help me make the most of it, I think.”
The decision making process for Mathis lasted more than two months. His agent had hinted the Seattle Seahawks were the leading candidate for the All-Pro guard’s services as recently as Monday. Mathis, who had visited the Broncos in June but had hadn’t heard back, thought winding up in Denver was improbable.
“The Broncos were a team that throughout this process, they weren’t really involved and kind of showed up late and showed some interest,” Mathis said. “They really made me think hard about it. There were just so many things about this team, the organization, the coaching staff, I just couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t turn it down. I had to be here.”
According to a source inside the Bronco organization, GM John Elway reached out to Mathis following the Broncos 14-10 preseason victory in Houston, preferring not to tempt youth by starting three first-year players along the offensive line. According to Mathis, Elway’s pitch was straightforward.
“They let me know right away, and explained the situation, a young offensive line that could do well with some more veteran leadership and experience,” Mathis said. “I feel like I’ll be able to bring that to the table.”
However, Elway’s selling points weren’t the only thing Mathis considered when deciding to sign in Denver. Playing in head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, a similar system to the one Mathis excelled in with the Eagles, was also enticing.
“I have a lot of experience in the zone-blocking scheme,” Mathis said. “I think it fits me very well.”
Yet, the deciding factor for Mathis proved to be the high expectations set by the Broncos organization, and the opportunity to play with a future Hall-of-Famer.
“Just the opportunity to play for a contender, and block for a guy like Peyton Manning,” Mathis said.
While Kubiak has already said Mathis won’t play during the Broncos third preseason game this Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers, he has acknowledged Mathis will be the Broncos starting left guard in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens. For his part, Mathis is ready to get to work in preparation for that first game.
“I think I’ll be up to speed,” Mathis said. “We’ll see, won’t we?”
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