I think the Colts made a mistake in removing the franchise tag from Mathis. Another team would have been happy to trade the Colts a high pick for Mathis with the notion that they would then sign him to a new contract. Instead, the Colts now have a 31 year old defensive end that they are paying 9 million a year. I know the Colts believe Mathis is a good value at 9 million a year because he can play linebacker and special teams in addition to defensive end. This flexibility is certainly valuable when transitioning to a hybrid 3-4 defense. But 9 million is too much to pay a linebacker or special teams player. The amount of money they paid him suggests he will remain as a defensive end. I suspect his value would decrease significantly as a defensive end should the Colts trade Freeney. Mathis' success was due in large part to lining up opposite of Freeney. If opposing teams no longer have to account for Dwight, they will focus more attention to Mathis. Then what are the Colts paying 9 million a year for? A 31 year old, average defensive lineman in a new defensive scheme that may or may not be a good match for his skill set.
I thought it was peculiar that the Colts signed Mathis to a new contract only hours after using the franchise tag on him. It seemed like poor planning on the organization's part. Now, if they trade Freeney, it seems like a questionable signing too.