Even in the midst of Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis acting like schmucks by staying away from voluntary OTAs and mandatory mini-camp because they are disgruntled about lucrative contracts signed four years ago, we always maintained that the only person with a legitimate reason to be pissed about his pay scale was Antoine Bethea.
The two-time Pro Bowl safety played under a 6th round rookie deal from 2006-2009. This off-season, after being one of the most productive and durable players for the Colts, he was tendered at one year, $2.521 million offer. Now, while folks like us would likely view a deal like that as "the lottery," for a safety of Bethea's caliber that offer is nearly an insult.
Thankfully, the Colts seemed to agree with our opinion that Bethea's new contract was a higher priority than others. Just hours after the Colts wrapped up their final OTAs of the 2010 off-season, Bethea signed his tender. After he signed that, he then scribbled his "John Hancock" on a four-year, $27 million contract which gives him $18 million in the first two years.
That's a lot of bread for a safety in this league, and it is typical that safeties are not given the kinds of lucrative contracts that pass rushers are given. But, in the modern NFL, the safety position has become what the cornerback position was in the 1980s and 1990s. Since there are no real shutdown corners in the NFL anymore, safeties are required to cover more of the field while also supporting the run. In a Tampa-2 base scheme, the free safety is vital, especially when the Colts shift to Cover-3 and use Bob Sanders or Melvin Bullitt as an extra defender in the box.
I don't think that it was a coincidence that when Antoine Bethea beat out Mike Doss for the starting free safety spot during training camp in '06, the Colts defense turned a corner. Yes, we have seen this team deal with injuries and inconsistency since then. However, in general, since 2006 the Colts have played outstanding pass defense by rarely giving up big plays. And, when they do, Antoine Bethea has always had a knack for coming up big in critical situations.
He very much deserved a new deal.
Swinging back to Reggie and Robert, I don't think I need to sit here and type out yet again how much I like them as people and as players. However, I don't think their holdout antics were productive in helping the team or helping themselves. They are already paid VERY well, and their contracts are in-line with players of similar caliber. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning is making less money than his friggin brother, who is an inferior quarterback with an inferior resume.
Like Robert and Reggie, I'm fairly certain Peyton is not happy with his contract. However, unlike Robert and Reggie, Peyton didn't let petty contract BS interfere with his ability to help the team. Big P attended all the OTAs and the mini-camp. Now, with Bethea signed and Peyton willing to wait to negotiate his deal, the big question is: Will Mathis and Wayne show up for training camp?
If they do not, they should expect a very strong fan backlash.