It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks are in the market for a big-bodied receiver who can double as a red-zone threat. Why? Because the Seahawks, in 2013, only converted 53.23 percent of their red-zone trips into touchdowns, via Team Rankings.
For a team that averaged 3.4 red-zone trips per game, there’s no question Seattle would like to kick fewer field goals and score more touchdowns in the red zone. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they may have found a cure for their red-zone woes when they signed former CFL wideout Chris Matthews.
Sure, Matthews may not be a household name yet, but that’s no reason to sleep on him. The 6’5”, 227-pound undrafted free agent out of Kentucky has made the most of his stay in Canada.
As a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the 24-year-old wideout amassed 95 receptions, 1,330 yards receiving, averaged 14 yards per catch and scored eight touchdowns.
Furthermore, in 2012, he garnered the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie Award. As a rookie, he caught seven touchdown passes and tallied 1,192 yards receiving on 81 receptions. Check out the video below for some highlights from Matthews’ inaugural season in the CFL:
On tape, it’s clear that Matthews is a big, strong, physical receiver who can make tough catches in traffic. Additionally, he’s a guy who has been extremely productive at every level he has played. This is significant because it demonstrates that he is a football player and not just an athletic freak.
Here is an excerpt from the National Football Post’s scouting report on Matthews, via Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature: "He's going to need some time, but these big, long receivers with good body control and lanky speed definitely have a home in the NFL. Has the size to be a solid blocker on the outside and has seen a real spike in his stock this year after a productive senior campaign."
For a team that had four of its seven receivers finish the 2013 season with negative run-block grades, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Matthews could immediately upgrade one of the wide receiving corps’ weakest areas.
As far as Matthews’ possible role in the Seahawks offense goes, Danny Kelly of Field Gulls sheds some light on what we could expect to see:
Look at what Sidney Rice was brought in to do. Sidney Rice is/was valuable for the Seahawks for two main reasons - his excellent catch radius and ability to grab high/low passes that most players could not, and his very underrated blocking in the run game. Assuming Rice becomes a cap casualty, it will be interesting to see if Matthews can make any noise in these two areas.
Kelly’s right: It will be interesting to see if Matthews can make any noise in those areas. As I mentioned above, he has shown great production and is only 24 years of age. This, in turn, means he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his body, and his overall ceiling as a player hasn’t been reached.
With proper coaching and patience, Matthews could end up being the second successful player the Seahawks’ front office staff has plucked from the CFL. Yet, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The long-strider went undrafted for a reason. There are some glaring holes in his game.
According to Tom Melton’s NFL Draft Blog, Matthews won’t ever be much of a route-runner, and his lapses in concentration will lead to unnecessary drops. Coincidentally enough, those were the two things that caught my eye when I went back and watched two of the Blue Bombers’ games from the 2012 season.
I also noticed he isn’t very quick or elusive. In the open field, he rarely makes defenders miss and is slow to turn the corner. When he gets up to speed, he is as fast as they come, but it often takes him quite a while to reach full speed.
Despite his downfalls, the Seahawks made the right move. He’s a low-risk, high-reward signing that could potentially pay immediate dividends. There has been no official word on the total value of his contract, yet it’s safe to say he will probably make $450,000 in 2014 if he makes the team. That’s the going rate for players who sign future contracts.
Even though fans should temper their expectations until Matthews has the opportunity to showcase his abilities for the Seahawks’ coaching staff, there are a handful of reasons to be excited about his skill set, potential and what he brings to the table as a red-zone threat.