Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Matthews, 49ers tight end? Believe it

Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

Like many of us, ex-Philadelphia Eagles second-round pick Jordan Matthews put on some weight during quarantine.

Unlike many of us, Jordan Matthews put on some weight with the explicit purpose of transitioning from wide receiver to tight end, where a new 236-pound frame could come in handy.

I, too, wish I had gained 20 pounds for job prospects, but alas, that’s a non-story I’ll keep to myself.

While the idea of switching positions seven years into a career may feel a bit strange, as Matthews was once the Eagles’ leading wideout and came seven yards away from being a 1,000-yard receiver back in 2015, after bouncing around the league for the past few seasons without much in the way of stability, this might just prove to be the former Vanderbilt receiver’s best chance to find a long-term home in the NFL.

Hmm… home, that’s a fitting word because Matthew’s new team, the San Francisco 49ers, owes quite a bit of their legacy to his cousin, NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Hmm, I wonder if that fun fact has ever come up before?

Matthews may have finally found a home away from the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Since being unceremoniously traded away in the lead-up to the 2017 NFL season, Jordan Matthews has returned to the Philadelphia Eagles on two separate occasions, once in 2018 and again in 2019.

After his contract expired with the Buffalo Bills, Matthews signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the New England Patriots but was waived with an injury settlement after sustaining a hamstring injury during training camp. From there, Matthews returned to South Philly on a vet minimum deal and amassed 20 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns in a vastly diminished role.

With an even tighter market than the offseason prior, Matthews bounced around from the San Francisco 49ers back to the Eagles and then back to the 49ers again in 2019, where he appeared in three games and caught four passes for 33 yards and zero touchdowns.

Had that been the end of the road for Matthews, which felt likely, considering he didn’t play in 2020, it would have been an underwhelming coda to a career that started with a bang but tailed off in spectacular fashion, but for one reason or another, Jerry Rice’s cousin wasn’t ready to go out like that.

No, with a possession-heavy receiving style and a lot of treads left on his tires, Matthews decided to face the situation head-on, eat six(!) full meals a day, and attempt to transition to tight end a la Darren Waller before him.

Through two games of preseason action, I think it’s safe to say the results have been encouragingly mixed.

Playing exclusively with the non-starters, Matthews has amassed one catch for 16 yards on two targets and has shown good progress as a blocker. While he may not have the same ceiling as some of his contemporaries, as, again, he’s 29-years-old, considering Kyle Shanahan‘s love of optionality and schematically-flexible players, having a tight end with 75 games at wide receiver under his belt could present enough upside to garner a spot on the 53 man roster as a utility backup.

Considering the 49ers aren’t exactly rife with young prospects at the tight end position, with only one player, 2020 sixth-round pick Charlie Woerner, on a rookie-scale contract, Matthews may just give players like MyCole Pruitt and even Ross Dwelley a run for their money for playing time.

Worst-case scenario? Matthews ends up on the Niners practice squad, gets elevated to play when appropriate, and ends up on the roster at some point later in the season when a roster spot opens up via injury.

dark. Next. Patrick Johnson has earned a roster spot

Will it work? Will Jordan Matthews join his cousin in the pantheon of San Francisco 49ers greats, or will he instead see a season very similar to 2020, where he bounces around and never quite finds his footing? Either way, it’ll be fun to see how things shake out for the former second-round pick out of Vanderbilt, especially if Howie Roseman somehow finds a way to get him in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey for a fourth time in six years.