Putting aside Peyton Manning and his pain-in-the-neck contract situation for the moment, the Indianapolis Colts faced three big roster decisions coming into the 2012 off-season. In particular, owner Jim Irsay and new general manager Ryan Grigson must decide whether to shell out big bucks for potential free agents Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Robert Mathis or let them depart for other teams. While most fans seem to think that at least one of the wide receivers will be gone by the time next season starts, there has been a lot of speculation about the future of defensive end Mathis in Indianapolis. The Colts surprised me when they applied the dreaded franchise tag to Mathis on the afternoon of March 5 because he had made it clear through various media outlets that he would perceive such a move as a huge insult. It appears that the move was just a ploy to buy some negotiating time, though, as the team later announced that they had agreed to terms with the defensive standout on a new four-year contract extension.
According to local sportswriter Mike Chappell , the Colts will pay Mathis a $15 million signing bonus and $36 million over the life of the contract if it goes full-term. The Colts haven't released official salary numbers, and they don't have to finalize the deal until March 13, the start of the league year. Nevertheless, those are big dollar amounts for a team that figures to be in full rebuilding mode, officially, once they draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in April. I suppose the thinking is that Mathis will continue to team with DE Dwight Freeney to terrorized opposing quarterbacks and give the Colts and us fans a link to the glorious recent past.
If Peyton Manning doesn't suit up for the Colts, though, and if the team is serious about transitioning to a 3-4 defensive scheme, this signing is a little curious. Yes, Mathis has been a beast and stands second on the franchise's all-time sacks list with 83.5, but he is 31 years old. And the Colts did lose 14 games in 2011 even with Mathis and his 9.5 sacks. It's quite possible that all that money could have been put to better use in 2012.
But then again, the Colts figure to be pretty bad again this season, so Irsay might as well spend some dough for a little excitement. Mathis can certainly bring that, and he can always be cut if he starts to slide, as 30-somethings are prone to do in the NFL.
As with Manning a few years ago, enjoy Mathis while you can. It looks like we'll get to see his unique talents in Indy for a few more seasons.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.