Mathis signs five-year, $30 million extension with Colts
When he signed his NFL rookie contract in 2003, a three-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts that included a modest signing bonus of $126,750, defensive end Robert Mathis moved his hard-working mother into a brand-new house in Austell, Ga.
On Monday afternoon, when Mathis officially signed the long-term contract extension first reported last Thursday by ESPN.com, he moved her into retirement.
"That's it, she is done working, and I told her that," said Mathis of his mother, Emma Mathis, who can quit cleaning other people's homes now, and just concentrate on keeping her own house spotless. "As soon as I agreed to the contract last week, I called her and told her, 'Well there is one bit of bad news: You are now unemployed.' Now that everything is signed, I'm definitely making her quit. She's worked long enough in everyone else's houses. [It's] time for her to kick back and enjoy herself a little."
The five-year extension that Mathis signed on Monday carries through the 2011 season and is worth $30 million. The deal includes an initial signing bonus of $8.1 million and a roster bonus of $3.9 million due next March. There are subsequent roster bonuses of $2 million each in 2008 and 2009 and of $1 million apiece in 2010 and 2011.
Mathis, who earlier this spring signed a one-year restricted free agent qualifying offer of $2.093 million, will earn $18.5 million in the first three years of his contract. The contract is the richest ever signed by a three-year restricted free agent and makes him one of the 10 highest-paid defensive ends in the league.
"It's more money than I could ever [fathom]," said Mathis, a fifth-round pick from tiny Alabama A&M in the 2003 draft. "It's a blessing, really, that's all I can say. I'm so grateful to the Colts, I can't even begin to put it into words. I promised them when I came here I would work hard. And they promised me the chance to be a player and that, if I played hard, they would take care of me. I think we both kept up our ends of the bargain. Trust me, I won't spend this all in one place."
The story of Mathis' first professional contract, and Emma Mathis' reaction to it, has been related in the past on ESPN.com but bears reiteration. On the day Robert Mathis was chosen in 2003, agent Hadley Engelhard called the family's home to explain what would happen next, and to go over some intricacies of the negotiation process.
A woman of modest means who has been working since grammar school, Emma Mathis fainted when Engelhard apprised her that her son would probably receive a signing bonus of about $125,000. When Robert and Engelhard phoned her last Thursday afternoon to reveal to her some details of the pending extension, Emma Mathis could not believe what she was hearing.
"Early in the offseason, the Colts made a commitment to get this done, and we told them that we were equally committed if the numbers were right," Engelhard said. "Chris Polian [the Colts' assistant general manager] and me worked hard on this and it finally came together, and I credit the entire Indianapolis organization for following through. For a low-round player like Robert to be able to command a deal like this, it's unbelievable, really. And it's pretty gratifying, as an agent, to be able to secure the future for a client like Robert is, and for his family."
One of the NFL's most productive sack men over the past two years, Mathis certainly has made the most of his chances. Despite playing only 19 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie, and then 37 percent and 35 percent in 2004 and 2005, respectively, he has become a feared pass rusher. He notched 10½ sacks in '04 and 11½ sacks in '05 and totaled 14 forced fumbles in that stretch.
In 2005, despite missing three games with injuries, Mathis had career highs in tackles (40), sacks (11½) and forced fumbles (eight). He was also a standout performer on special teams, a role that is likely to be removed from his job description in 2006.
Securing a deal with Mathis was critical to the Colts, since star right end Dwight Freeney is entering the final year of his contract and can be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. The Colts hope to sign Freeney, one of the NFL's premier defenders, to a long-term extension as well, but it has been rumored that the four-year veteran is seeking a deal that would make him the highest paid player in the league.
Indianapolis officials may be forced to use a franchise designation on Freeney next spring to keep him off the unrestricted market.
Mathis, 25, is scheduled to become Indianapolis' full-time starter at left end in 2006 as the Colts revamp their defensive line. Former left end Raheem Brock will move inside to tackle for 2006. At just 235 pounds, Mathis will be one of the lightest defensive ends in the league, and there are some concerns the increased workload may affect his level of play. But coach Tony Dungy said at the team's recent minicamp that coaches will closely monitor his snaps over the course of the season.
In 45 games, Mathis has 86 career tackles, 25½ sacks, 17 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six passes defensed.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .