Free agent vs draft pick: Ryan Mathews vs Khalfani Muhammad
By Will Lomas
Should the Tennessee Titans sign Ryan Mathews.
One of the worst kept secrets in the NFL right now is that the Philadelphia Eagles are poised to cut Ryan Mathews when he is healthy enough to do so.
With every free agent with big time potential hitting the market, we all know that Jon Robinson will study him hard to see if he could help the Tennessee Titans.
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In terms of a roster spot, I think a great way to look at it is in terms of Ryan Mathews vs Khalfani Muhammad.
Both players would compete for the same roster spot (RB3) on this team that is pretty set at RB1/2 with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry respectively. That leaves just one spot on the RB depth chart since teams rarely carry five running backs (including a fullback).
So, let’s look at what the competition should look like.
Why Ryan Mathews?
Honestly, Mathews has been a fringe starter since his career started. The main reason why Mathews hasn’t excelled is his injury issues.
If you only look at seasons where Mathews played 14 or more games, he is averaging over 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns. However it is clear that durability issues will prevent him from being a RB1 on any team.
That is why the Tennessee Titans would be such a great fit for Ryan Mathews. He could come in and be the best RB3 in the NFL and he could be the RB2 if/when the Titans decide to move on from DeMarco Murray.
Why Khalfani Muhammad?
This really boils down to two things: speed and youth. Both of those are things that Ryan Mathews does not posses.
Muhammad walked on to the team an instantly became a favorite to land a return job with the Tennessee Titans (likely just kick return because Adoree Jackson should anchor the punt returns). He also became a great change of pace guy to their two bruisers.
The big knock is that Muhammad wouldn’t be able to be a 1A to Henry’s 1B in the future (or at least that is too early to say now). If something happened to Murray or Henry this year, Ryan Mathews could come in and be an above average rotational player. I don’t believe I can say the same for Muhammad.
Is it possible to keep both?
In theory yes, you can keep both on this team.
If I was going to, here is how I think you have to do it. You have to cross train Muhammad to play slot wide receiver, running back and kick returner. He is going to be a gadget guy in year one, no matter what.
You give up on developing him as an all-around player and look at him instead as increased SWR depth and as a lock to start in every phase of special teams.
Ryan Matthews can be a game day decision based on the gameplan, but he still remains a true option to be a 15+ carry running back if the situation calls for it and/or if one running back needs the rest.
That way you get all the benefits of both without having to commit to either. However, the cost may be someone like Tre McBride losing out on a chance to make the roster.