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And They Talked About Robert Mathis, Free Agent



For the last nine years Robert Mathis has been forcing fumbles and sacking quarterbacks and generally causing havoc on the rest of the NFL. He's done it by following College Football Hall of Famer Bowden Wyatt's advice, which goes like this: "Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in a bad humor."

Today, he is the topic in a debate to decide whether or not the Colts front office should keep him. My Mind and my Heart were all studied up and ready for the discussion, each thinking that he had the best argument to present. I didn't keep them waiting.

I asked, "What do you think the Indianapolis Colts should do with Robert Mathis? Re-sign him or release him?"

My Mind opened up the debate. "The Colts shouldn't waste time and money on Robert Mathis. He was brought in under Tony Dungy to fit into the Tampa 2 scheme that the Colts wanted to run. That scheme is based entirely on the front four guys getting pressure. The new head coach, Chuck Pagano, comes from Baltimore. The Ravens' scheme is based on linebackers, not linemen."

"But he is a proven pass rusher who plays hard and comes up big at opportune times. He has 39 forced fumbles in his career, has four seasons with double-digit sacks, and three seasons with 9.5. He makes Dwight Freeney's job easier, and the secondary's as well," my Heart said. "And no one has said that Indianapolis is switching to a 3-4 defense."

"I think anyone can see that change is in the air for the Colts, especially on defense," my Mind responded. "And 'opportunistic' is not exactly the word for Mathis. He has notched a grand total of 4 forced fumbles in the last 2 years, and has only broken 50 tackles one time in his career! Proven is not exactly a description I'd use either. The majority of his sacks come against division rivals, and only 2 of his sacks this year came against teams whose offensive line unit was ranked in the top 15."

My Heart noted, "Your numbers are correct, but your assumption is not. Robert Mathis has more sacks in 9 years than any of his 2003 draft colleagues, and he is #8 on the active sack list. Five of the 7 players in front of him have played longer than he has, and one retires this year---placing Mathis at #7 on the active sack list. He hasn't ever been under 9 sacks with the exception of the 2007 season where he missed several games due to injury, and only 2 defensive ends have forced more fumbles than Robert Mathis in the last five years. I'd call him both opportunistic and proven."

My Mind wasn't about to let any grass grow under his feet. "Well, just remember, Heart, he plays on special teams for the Colts as well, and those tackle numbers and forced fumble numbers are included in my statistics. 4 fumbles in two years with twice the opportunities as Dwight Freeney who has 7 in the same time span? Only one time over 50 tackles with twice as many chances as other players? He is good, but not as high up on the pedestal as you're putting him."

My Heart had anticipated this. "Mind, you are camouflaging the numbers to your advantage. The main reason his tackle numbers are down is due to the fact that he has played more situational football in the last two years than ever before, due to a flawed defensive scheme. And as far as your measuring stick Dwight Freeney goes, he has never achieved more than 40 tackles in a season, much less reached 50."

I realized that at that point the debate was getting ready to dissolve into a shouting match full of angry words, so I stepped in. "Okay, you've both had a chance to present your views. If Robert Mathis was re-signed by the Colts, what kind of contract should he get?"

My Mind tossed his thought into the mix. "Well, he signed a 5 year, 30 million dollar contract in 2006, so it would probably take a 3 year deal in the range of 20 million to keep him around. I'd only give him a 2 year, 13.5 million dollar deal if I kept him at all. Then he can either retire a Colt or go and have a 2 sack season somewhere else."

"Mind is probably right about what it'd take to keep him here," my Heart said. "I think the Colts should give him a three year deal worth about $17 million. If you add it up, that's not a very big cap hit to take to keep a pillar of your defense around."

Once again, I ended the debate there, and have posted a brief synopsis of each view for you to analyze and come up with your own thoughts. Who do you agree with? My Mind, or my Heart?

My Mind: Release Mathis!

1. The Defensive Scheme Is Changing

2. He Is Not A Consistently Great Player

3. He Will Make Too Big Of A Cap Splash

My Heart: Re-sign Mathis!

1. He Is Invaluable on Special Teams and Defense

2. He Makes Freeney Better

3. He Is A Sack Machine (Despite Starting Only 30.3% of Defensive Snaps His First Three Years)

Well, I hope you enjoyed the debate between my Heart and my Mind. I think that my Heart won this debate, and I agree with his logic. Robert Mathis is indispensable. Tomorrow we'll see what my Mind and Heart have to say about Pierre Garcon.

God Bless America! 'Til tomorrow!


Recommended Comments

As much as I like BOTH Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney; I believe that Mathis has expressed excitement about the new defensive coaches and Freeney has not. If the Colts do go to a 3-4, I don't know if Freeney or Mathis can play a linebacker position. However, excitement about the coaching staff says a lot. Keep Mathis!

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Freeney and Mathis stay.....less reps bring more relentless energy to the table. If we do go 3/4 Mathis is the likely 4 man, and with a strength at linebacker, Mathis will get plenty of rest....Conner will be a beast in a 3/4 package. You will never know where the 'heat is coming from....Wheeler, Conner, Mathis, Freeney, Bethea.....Angerer??? Brackett? Very interesting when we attack....

Thanks for the nice blog We Spy!!

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I defintitely say Mathis should stay. I have no doubt in my mind he will succeed in a 3/4. I hope they fit Freeney in and he does well. I'm not as sure about him. I know I'm excited about a new defense myself! So sick of Tampa 2, I wanna see a real defense! I think now if we keep Peyton and have a new defense it could be a very good year, I wish it was football season all over again! Guess I will have to settle for draft and free agency.

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Both Mathis & Freeney should stay.. they are both talented athletes that can fit in with more than just pass rushing and I agree with Brent, they can bring a whole new type of 3/4 with these guys in their arsenal.

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I cannot believe this question is even being seriously debated. Keep both of them. Quality DE pass rushers cannot be found just anywhere in the draft, free agency, or another team's roster. Mathis & Freeney eats QB's for breakfast like most people eat Wheaties in the morning. Both of these men still have plenty of petrol in their respective tanks. If talent still exists on our squad why would you dump it, trade it, or discard it?

The Bill Belicheck school of thought usually says trade a player with 1 or 2 good NFL years left & turn that trade into a high ranking draft pick, but even Bill has said this year that Mathis & Freeney are the best pure pass rushers in the game. What Grigson are you planning on trading them to our chief rival the Patriots or something? I sincerely hope not.

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Yes, absolutely you keep both the "human spinning tornado" Freeney & "Mr. Tackle Consistency" Mathis. Superb NFL pass rushers are extremely rare in this league. You can't trade them in for a newer model with less mileage because they are so hard to find.

Besides both Freeney & Mathis are sharp veteran leaders who can make any necessary adjustments that are needed.

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Reading up on the Baltimore hybrid 3-4 makes me think that Pagano would like a Mathis or Freeney as the hybrid lineman. In order for a 3-4 to work effectively, you have to have an above average nose tackle. We don't have one of those yet. It may be that the Colts have to revert back to the 4-3 until the defensive lineman show that they can hold there own in a 3-4. If we are in a 4-3, then I want Mathis and Freeney speed rushing the ends. GO COLTS!

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