Ask any NFL expert what the cornerstone positions in the league are and you’ll find a pretty consistent list. Quarterback, pass rusher, cornerback and left tackle are always in the conversation. When the Falcons drafted Jake Matthews in 2014, the hope was that they had found a player that would be with the team for at least 10 years, if not more.
So far, that looks like it will be the case. Jake hasn’t necessarily been a top-3 tackle in his first few years, but it’s hard to deny that he’s improved with every season he’s been in the league. He’s now a high quality starter that the team hopes to keep around for a long time to come.
His big and reasonable contract
After 4 good years of play and a trajectory that showed he was only getting better, Jake was given a five year extension in July of 2018 worth a total of 75 million. The deal has a little over 41 million in guarantees and actually came in slightly under the deal that Taylor Lewan got from Tennessee (80 million with 50 million guaranteed).
Lewan has been considered a slightly better player overall since entering the league, but Matthews has not been far behind. Both players have fared better than Greg Robinson, who was drafted before either of them. Given his production and continued improvement since entering the league, there’s little doubt that the Falcons signed him to a very reasonable contract.
He’s productive and only getting better
As for 2018, Jake rewarded the Falcons with one of his best seasons yet. He was ranked by PFF as one of the 7 best left tackles in the league, proving that his contract was well worth it. In fact, a quick glance at PFF shows that Jake has improved almost every year he’s been in the league - a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, as he is set to turn 27 in the 2019 season.
The new contract has Jake signed through the 2023 season, when he’ll be just 31 years old. While he won’t be a spring chicken at that point, there’s still a pretty good chance Matthews will want to play for a few more years. Perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas retired at age 34 and Andrew Whitworth is still playing at a high level at age 37. Nate Solder was awarded a large contract at age 30, and he’s a lesser player than Matthews.
So long as his high quality play continues, the Falcons will likely get Jake signed up for one more extension before looking for his long-term replacement. There’s no reason to think he can’t play into his early or even mid-30s, which means he should be in Atlanta for at least 7 or 8 more years at this point. At minimum, he should be here for the duration of Matt Ryan’s time in Atlanta, making sure we have a franchise pass protector for our future Hall of Fame quarterback. He has the chance to retire as a franchise great, but we’ll leave that discussion for the future.