The San Diego Chargers had to have been shocked when often injured running back Ryan Mathews made it through a full 16-game season in 2013. Now that he’s back on the shelf after just two weeks, they probably feel like they should have seen it coming. Whether they did or not, Mathews is indeed going to be inactive for quite a while, as the star rusher sustained a sprained MCL in his knee in week two, and could sit out the next 4-6 weeks.
The good news is that Mathews will not need surgery and could be back in less than a month. Even better news, is that the Chargers did see this fate ahead of time and went out in free agency and picked up former Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown on a three-year deal. That, combined with the re-signing of third down running back Danny Woodhead served as a joint plan in place to protect the team from Mathews being hurt, as well as for when his contract expired.
The injury obviously isn’t great news for the Chargers, but it’s even worse news for Mathews, who can ill afford to lose his starting gig or show potential suitors that he continues to struggle to stay health. The signing of Brown and extension for Woodhead appear to be the writing on the wall in San Diego, suggesting the Bolts won’t look to sign Mathews to a long-term deal once he becomes a free agent after this season.
And who could blame them? Mathews played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career last year, and while he was highly effective in easily his best season as a pro, he already showed again week two why San Diego can’t trust him going forward. It’s still possible Mathews returns for a strong close to the 2014 season and convinces San Diego to keep him at a discount price, but it’s not overly likely.
Instead, look for San Diego to let Mathews rest up and then drive him into the ground the rest of the way and get all they can out of him before he leaves at the end of the year. At that point, they’ll still have Brown and Woodhead on the roster and they can then turn their sights to adding a potential future starter in the 2015 NFL Draft.