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Colts' Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis Need a Reality Check

Hello, Reggie Wayne. How’s it going Robert Mathis? 

I hear you two are unhappy with your current financial compensation. The word is that you’re planning on skipping voluntary and mandatory team activities unless the Colts organization is willing to renegotiate your contracts. That’s a shame. It’s not easy to feel disrespected and under-appreciated. 

But I have to say, as well as you both play on the field, you really need to gain some perspective off of it. Should we review the situation together? Perhaps it would help to clarify all of our points of view.

Reggie, you’re a very talented wide receiver- let me say that right up front. You’re also currently under contract with Colts through the end of 2011. You’re slated to make $5.47 million in 2010 and $5.94 million in 2011. Though that’s not on par with the highest paid wideouts, it still puts you in the Top 20 in terms of salaries at your position. And frankly, many of those ahead of you are simply overpaid. You can’t reasonably expect the Colts to compete with other organizations’ bad judgment. 

Robert,you’ll be earning $6.72 million over the next two seasons, including roster bonuses. That puts you in more or less the same situation. Other defensive ends are making more money, but overall you’re being paid pretty darn well.

Both of you excel at your respective positions, and to be fair, I can see why you think you should command larger salaries. But you’re really not looking at the big picture. These are deals that both of you agreed to (and were more than happy to get) just a couple of years ago. Beyond that, consider the following.

Neither of you is The Man(ning).

When it comes to personnel issues, the Colts have one overarching goal at the moment. And that is to take care of Peyton Manning. You know, the guy leading you both to all of those wins? The guy throwing you the ball, Reggie? The guy keeping your defense well-rested, Robert?

Yeah, him.

Manning is going to get a huge contract. Possibly…probably the biggest contract any quarterback has ever signed. Until that gets done and the Colts can reassess their financial situation, neither of you is a priority.

Is that fair? You’d better believe it. Your positions are important, but nothing is as important to this franchise as the guy under center with the laser rocket arm. No matter how tired we all may be of his advertising career.

Being one of the league's most productive receivers has prompted Wayne to seek more cash

Reggie, I’m going to be blunt: Indy is stacked with pass catchers. Even your tight end can haul in whatever is thrown at him. And with the emergence of youngsters like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, now is probably not the best time to be rocking the boat. You may be a critical piece of the offense, but in the end, you’re probably not as necessary as you’d like to believe.

And don’t be snickering over there, Mathis. Contrary to what you might have heard from the vocal ignorant, defense does not win championships, especially for the Colts franchise in its current formation.

Moreover, more players need to realize the benefits of being associated with winning teams. All of those Gatorade commercials, the endorsement dollars, and all that free gear– I hope you realize that your marketability is tied directly to your level of professional success. You’re both lucky enough to play for one of the best teams in today’s game. 

Just keep that in the backs of your minds.

Both of you also benefit from having talented players around you. I doubt we’d be seeing 1,000 receiving seasons from you, Reggie, if you were mired in Oakland or St. Louis or Buffalo. I doubt you’d be making as much of an impact off the line, Robert, if you were in Detroit or Cleveland or Kansas City and playing with a largely anonymous supporting cast. 

Have you noticed what’s happening in the wide world of sports, where more and more superstar players are taking less money to put themselves in position to win? Well, notice it now.

And in a more general but only slightly less relevant sense, you’re in a hard-working, predominantly middle-class Midwestern town griping about 7-figure salaries in a time when 1 in every 10 Americans around you is jobless

So let’s turn the Diva Dial down. A lot.

Your timing stinks.

Of course, all of these points pale in comparison to this bottom line: You have no leverage.

Both Wayne and Mathis (above) are threatening to skip team activities if their demands go unmet

You’re making contract demands in one of the most turbulent and uncertain financial climates in recent NFL history. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the players’ union and the league are trying to negotiate a new labor agreement. That’s a rather big deal. And right now, the sides aren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

Failure to reach a consensus could result in all kinds of nastiness, up to and including a lockout. Or 2011 could end up being an uncapped year, leaving clubs free of the restrictions of the league’s salary cap. Or any number of other things could occur between now and then.

Regardless, you’re standing in quicksand, trying to build your case without any firm footing. Your team president, Bill Polian, has publicly stated that if you’re determined to wait for new deals, you might as well get comfortable. Because you’ll be waiting a long time.

It’s pure foolishness to think that you can strongarm the team at this point. If 2011 does end up being uncapped, who knows what kind of negotiating power you might have at that time? Conversely, if the possibility of a lockout persists, teams are going to especially risk-averse until the future becomes less hazy.

Either way, you’ve made your wishes known, but I’d avise you both to take a new approach.  Get back on the practice field.  Earn your millions. Work hard. And prove to the team why you’re worth more money. That way, when your current contracts expire, you’ll stand a much better chance of being justly rewarded.

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