Happy belated Fourth of July everyone. For the first time in years, I did not go to the July 4th BBQ or party, and I didn't mind it one bit. I spent the day with the wife, and we decided to go to a local Mexican restaurant we'd been wanting to try seemingly forever. Our schedules are crazy, and eating out together is rare. Thus, we used the July 4th weekend to catch up on our restaurant list because 1) She was off from work during the weekend for the first time in months, and 2) I didn't have to write any articles about the Colts, the NFL, or the stupid lockout.
So, because this was the one weekend where I chose to avoid all NFL-related news, it is only Murphy's Law that my buddy Robert Mathis decided to use the media during this time to complain about his contract situation.
If you were like me over the weekend, you missed Len Pasquarelli's article about Mathis and his contract heading into 2011. In the article, Pasquarelli quoted 'one person close to the Mathis' and 'people close to him' as sources saying Mathis is very upset about his contract. There even a quote saying Robert will 'never play another snap' in Indianapolis under his current deal.
Now, those are pretty bold words considering that we're in the middle of a lockout and Mathis, like it or not, is under contract with the Colts for 2011. This means he'll either play in Indy in 2011, or he won't play PERIOD! This type of rhetoric conflicts a bit with all the Pro-Union jargon Mathis Tweets about, saying that all the players want to do is just play.
When the lockout ends, Mathis will make about $4 million this season, with a $1 million dollar signing bonus, under his current deal. For Mathis to be angry about this while teammates like Charlie Johnson, Joseph Addai, and Melvin Bullitt sit in free agent limbo, it kind of sets a bad tone during a very delicate time in the labor relations.
Predictably, Mathis turned to Twitter to dismiss the claims that 'he'll never play another snap' in Indy under his current deal.
PFT has a good write-up of the whole exchange on Twitter between Mathis and fans who are asking him about Pasquarelli's article. One of those fans was Nate Dunlevy, and he got a response from Robert about him possibly sitting out the season because of his contract:
Haven't thought of scheming up a #PayMePlan yet for 3 reasons..(1)18 is up (2)87 needs his (3)free agents will b addressed b4 me
Now, obviously, that's nice to hear. But, here's my problem with the general tone: Robert doesn't directly address Pasquarelli's sources, which suggest to me (and to Mike Florio) that the people yapping to Len about Mathis' contract were indeed Mathis' people. These people may include his agent, his teammates, his family, etc.
Again, I like that Robert is essentially saying that the team has higher priorities to address than No. 98, but, as Florio stated over the weekend, if he has this perspective then why is Robert letting people from his camp chirp to the media about his feelings regarding his contract?
It's no secret Robert is not happy about his current deal, even though Robert has absolutely no right in the world to be so. Instead of taking his chances in the free agent market after 2006, Robert decided to sign an extension that year. The deal he inked his name to gave him $12 million in bonus money in addition to his yearly pay. That's the choice Robert made, and when one signs their name to a deal, fans like me (who don't get $12 million in bonus money to do anything) kind of expect him to show up, do his job, and not complain that he was given $12 million in bonus money.
If he wanted more money, he should have taken his chances in free agency.
Last year, Robert skipped OTAs and mandatory mini-camp because he was upset over this deal. We took him to task a bit for that because it was, and still is, selfish on his part. Skipping OTAs is one thing. That's frowned upon, but OTAs are not mandatory (even though guys like Peyton routinely show up, and if Peyton is there, everybody should be there). But, missing mandatory mini-camp was a no-no. That was putting himself ahead of the team. To this day, we don't know if Jim Caldwell had the stones to fine Mathis for missing camp.
Now, over a year later, and with Mathis' contract up at the end of 2011, there are more rumblings. However, instead of owning up to the quotes in Pasquarelli's article by either directly dismissing them as false or agreeing with them, Mathis used Twitter to say:
I have every intention on doing my job once the NFL gives us our job back. I never been a locker room cancer &wont start now. #GoColtsDammit
I honestly don't think Robert is a lockerroom cancer either. I also don't think he's a 'Julius Peppers' type guy, which is a player who clearly quits on his team (Carolina) in a cynical effort to get traded to a 'better' team (Chicago) and have a great year there. Robert isn't like that.
But, with his camp bickering to sports reporters like Pasquarelli this year, and with Mathis skipping mini-camp last year to protest the contract, the old adage is 'where there's smoke...' My feelings on this are there shouldn't be smoke. There shouldn't be negative feelings about the contract at all.
Robert. Signed. It.
If Robert is mad at the Colts for a decision he made five years ago, that's just too friggin' bad now, isn't it. Bottom line is his name is signed on the line which is dotted, and both the team and the fans not only expect Robert to do his job under his current deal, but to do it enthusiastically and without complaint. If he wanted more money, if he felt he was worth more than $30 million over five years with a $12 mill bonus, he should have not signed the extension, gone into free agency in 2007, and taken his chances.
He didn't do this because, odds are, he wouldn't have gotten anything near $30 million over five years.
Mathis is viewed as someone who benefits from playing on the other side of the line, opposite Dwight Freeney. That perspective was crystallized during Super Bowl XLIV when Mathis notched just one tackle against the Saints. Freeney was hobbled in that game, and without Freeney demanding double blocks, Mathis was not just neutralized. He was dominated.
Obviously, the tandem of Freeney-Mathis is one of the greatest pass rushing duos in NFL history. But, make no mistake about it, Freeney makes the duo work. Without Freeney, Mathis is not a Pro Bowler. Phil Wilson of the Indy Star seems to agree with this opinion.
Now, I've written about this subject before, and it has ruffled some feathers in Robert's camp. But, while we like him both as a person and a player, we aren't his personal cheerleading section. Our goal here is to see the Indianapolis Colts win another Super Bowl. Our goal isn't to promote Robert's #PayMePlan. And if the Colts were to give Robert the kind of contract we think Robert wants, we'd be kind of pissed off. The Colts have holes all over their roster, in particular defensive tackle and safety. Giving Robert a contract similar to Dwight Freeney's would severely limit Indy's ability to evolve its roster and win.
Thus, it's my opinion 2011 will be the last year we see Robert in a Colts uniform. I think Robert knows this too, which is why his camp seems so chatty with people like Len Pasquarelli. It is because it seems Mathis' career in Indy is drawing to a close that we wrote an article advocating for Chris Polian to sign free agent defensive end Cliff Avril. Avril is younger than Mathis, and would likely provide similar production should Mathis depart after 2011.