Ryan Mathews was a first round pick for the San Diego Chargers in the 2010 NFL Draft. Mathews missed four games as a rookie and finished the 2010 season with 158 attempts, 678 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Mathews increased his yards per rushing attempt average from 4.3 as a rookie to 4.9 in 2011 as he had 222 attempts, 1,091 yards and six rushing touchdowns.
Mathews finished the 2011 season ranked 10th among all players in rushing yards and no one had more yards per attempt among players in the top 10 for rushing yards. The San Diego starting running back missed two games last season, broke his clavicle in the team’s first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers this year and could miss the first two regular season games.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,606 and yards per game at 100.4 during the 2011 season. Jones-Drew has been a workhorse since the 2008 season because he had 312 rushing attempts in 2009, 299 attempts in 2010 and 343 attempts in 2011 with at least 1,300 rushing yards in each season.
Jones-Drew is owed $8.3 million in 2012, $8.8 million in 2013 and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season, but only $4.5 million and $4.9 million will count against the team’s cap space. Jones-Drew wants a contract extension and said that he is open to a trade. Mathews is owed $712,750 in 2012, about $2 million in 2013 and $1.5 million in 2014.
Jones-Drew was selected in the 2006 NFL Draft, only missed three regular season games in six seasons from 2006-2011 and had at least 10 rushing touchdowns three times in his career including 15 in 2009. Mathews missed twice as many games in four fewer seasons. Jacksonville could be interested in Mathews because Jones-Drew might leave as an unrestricted free agent.
Mathews will be 25 years old when the season starts while Jones-Drew will be 27 years old. If San Diego offers Mathews and draft picks for Jones-Drew, they would be over the salary cap in 2012. Quentin Jammer and Shaun Phillips are owed $4 million each in 2012, but Jammer and Phillips are in the final year of their contracts which would clear cap space next season.
San Diego had 32 team sacks in 2011 which was tied for 23rd in the NFL. The Chargers missed out on one of the best free agents when defensive end Mario Williams signed with the Buffalo Bills. It is time for San Diego to make a bold statement, and adding Jones-Drew could be the right move.