Clearly, the most critical contract situation that needs attention for the Indianapolis Colts once the lockout finally ends is that of quarterback Peyton Manning, who was designated in February as an "exclusive" franchise player by the team.
But two other longtime veterans already under contract for 2011, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis, could cause big headaches for team president Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian.
As was the case last spring — when the pair each missed minicamps and OTAs, but reported to training camp on time — Wayne and Mathis are expected to seek extensions as they enter the final season of their respective deals. We can't speak for Wayne (2011 base salary of $5.95 million) — who signed a six-year, $39 million extension in 2006, and who'll turn 33 in November — but The Sports Xchange can report with some degree of certainty that Mathis ($2.41 million in 2011) has no intention of reporting to the club until/unless his contract is addressed.
Said one person close to the Mathis situation: "He'll never play another snap there under that (existing) contract."
Mathis signed a frontloaded five-year, $30 million extension in 2006, and he's collected over $27 million of it. But the 30-year-old, eight-year veteran wants another deal and seems willing to sit until he gets one. Of course, Mathis insisted the same thing a year ago, but people close to him suggested to The Sports Xchange that he's adamant this time around about his stance.
We'll see. Tough words in June or July aren't always an accurate indicator of just how tough a player will hang in August and September, when fiery rhetoric gives way to the potential for missed paychecks.
A three-time Pro Bowl performer, Mathis is 30, but feels he still has some productive seasons remaining as a pass-rusher. He has 60 sacks over the past six seasons and, according to an NFL.com chart this week, that number represents the third-most in the league over that stretch, six more than were posted by more celebrated teammate Dwight Freeney.
There's no doubt Mathis benefits from the presence of Freeney, who draws plenty of attention from opponents. But Freeney also benefits from having the undersized, but explosive, Mathis on the other side as well.