BOSTON (CBS) — Jordan Matthews met with a handful of teams this offseason, but he knew the Patriots offered him the best opportunity in a number of areas.
The wide receiver signed a one-year deal with New England last week, and will likely take over in the slot for the departed Danny Amendola (though he’s open to whatever Bill Belichick wants him to do). But nothing is ever given to anyone on the Patriots, and Matthews knows he has some competition to earn that role. The 25-year-old relishes that challenge, and feels it will make him better as both a player and a man.
“I knew just as a player and as a man – I’m recently married. I’m about to have my first child. I don’t feel like I’m called to be comfortable and I knew this would be great place for me to grow, not only as a player, but as a man in general,” Matthews told reporters at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the guys and really getting to work this whole offseason.”
Though Amendola left for Miami, Matthews joins a crowded crop of receivers on the New England roster. Julian Edelman will be back from a torn ACL that cost him the 2017 season, with Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt and Cordarrelle Patterson rounding out the depth chart.
“I think that’s what’s really going to breed greatness in all of us,” Matthews said of the competition. “At the end of the day, if you don’t have that type of competition then that’s the easiest way that guys start saying, ‘OK, this guy’s a rookie. This guy’s young. This guy has no production.’ But I feel like we have a group of a lot of guys that are not just competitors, but they have had production in the league so they’ve proven it. So it’s not just, ‘OK, this guy has potential.’ No, there’s a lot of production, so I think that’s one thing to really be excited about. But also, there are a lot of great guys. I’ve spent some time around Julian, talking to him, so I can’t wait to meet the rest of them.”
To help his transition, Matthews decided to remain in New England after he signed with the Patriots. He was eager to get to work with his new team, and has been working out with the Patriots’ strength staff ahead of the start their offseason program next week.
He also had to pick a new number. The receiver wore No. 81 during his three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and No. 87 last year with the Buffalo Bills (he also wore that number while at Vanderbilt). But neither number was available in New England. He may have been able to convince Cody Hollister to let him have No. 81, but he knew No. 87 was off limits.
“I think somebody’s wearing that, so I was like, ‘OK, whoever has it, I can probably fight him.’ But then I heard he was big and I said, ‘I won’t worry about it. He can have it,'” Matthews joked of his new teammate, Rob Gronkowski.
But before taking his new number, 80, he reached out to the last player to don those digits for the Patriots. He’s known Amendola for a few years, first meeting him at quarterback Sam Bradford’s wedding, and they’ve kept in touch since. But knowing the impact Amendola had in his five seasons in New England, he wanted his friend’s blessing first.
“That’s my guy,” he said of Amendola.
And Matthews is well aware that he has some big shoes to fill in taking over that jersey.
“I know what he did here. I don’t think that you have to get a number retired and all that stuff to understand you need to have respect for what guys do in a place like this,” he said. “I think they call him ‘Danny Playoff,’ and I think he earned that nickname.”