Should he stay or should he go? – WR Jordan Matthews
To finish our series, we’ll look at Jordan Matthews, the former Eagles wide receiver who came to the Bills in the Ronald Darby trade to replace Sammy Watkins in the starting lineup and become Tyrod Taylor’s go-to guy. Should the Bills re-sign him? Should they let him leave?
Despite Watkins being a fan favorite and a true elite talent in the eyes of Bills fans (mine too), on paper the idea of replacing him with Matthews wasn’t a bad one. He was a productive and dependable WR for the Eagles since his rookie year and never had problems with injuries. Watkins could always take over games if healthy, but it was a big “if” in Buffalo. Unfortunately, Matthews couldn’t survive his first practice as a Bill without getting injured, and it became a problem for him all year long.
Even playing through injuries and finishing the season with lackluster numbers (25 receptions for 282 yards and 1 TD) J-Matt showed some promise in his first season in Buffalo. He did it being targeted only 34 times and finished the year with the best catch rate of his career, 73.5, per Pro Football Focus. Also, he was a nice safety valve for Taylor in the short and intermediate passing game, especially on plays in the middle of the field, a supposed weakness of the Bills’ starting QB. From 0 to 9 yards he had 9 receptions on 12 targets for 132 yards, and Bills QBs had a passer rating of 80.2 on those passes. From 10 to 19 yards, still only counting passes in the middle of the field, he had 2 receptions on 3 targets for 28 yards, and QBs had a passer rating of 95.1 on those throws. Not the biggest sample size, but in his few targets Matthews showed why he’s a dependable wide receiver, even never playing at full strength.
It’s difficult to evaluate how much money other teams will be throwing at Matthews in the free agency, but with his past production he obviously will have his suitors. I believe the Bills will be among them. He’s the type of guy the new regime loves: a blue collar veteran leader, respected by his teammates. Like I said, production and availability never were problems until this past season. He’s a big target and a guy who can help a young QB like he did with Carson Wentz in the past, and even in his short stint with Tyrod. If no one overpays for his services in free agency, then I think Matthews can be back with the Bills and will be a valuable piece going forward. But if the price is too high, and with Kelvin Benjamin and especially Zay Jones, a very similar type of WR, already on the books, the Bills should let him go and focus on someone who can stretch the field playing outside, letting Zay take over the slot WR position.