Mike Chappell of the Indy Star reported this morning that Robert Mathis is choosing to not participate in the team’s organized team activities because he is unhappy with his contract. Adding a player to the mix of players who will need to negotiate new contracts at the end of the 2010 season, which I discussed in this article is certainly not good news.
Mathis has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons and is second only to Dwight Freeney in career sacks in franchise history (63). Despite this production, Mathis is set to make $2.3 million and $2.4 million in salary over the final two years of this contract, or $5.8 million and $4.4 million including bonuses. By comparison, Freeney will make $8.6 million and $11.1 million in salary over the same two seasons, or $13.6 million and $16.1 million including bonuses.
Needless to say, the ability of the Colts to re-negotiate Mathis’ contract while also trying to hash out a long-term contract with Peyton Manning so he will finish his career in Indianapolis as the highest paid player in the NFL, is difficult to ascertain. The importance of Mathis’ attitude on the future of the team is critical and it is not in any shape, at this point, to see Mathis leave for greener pastures.
If Mathis requests a release, even if it is after this season, it will do nothing more than add to the potential turnover the Colts will have to manage. Also, if the Colts choose instead to re-negotiate the two-time Pro Bowl selection’s contract, it could have an important impact on its ability to retain some of the key contributors who will also be in line with the Colts front office for new contracts.
One would hope that the Colts long history with Mathis, and his success in Indianapolis, would be a big incentive to get something worked out. It will be interesting to see how Manning’s discussions are affected by this situation. At some point or another the veterans on this team will need to realize that they can either chase big money or can do as New England did in the prime years of their dynasty, which is to take a bit less to stay together and build something truly special.