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Could Colts Pursue Pro Bowl Guard Evan Mathis?

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Could the Indianapolis Colts be a potential suitor for free agent guard Evan Mathis?

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Eagles released 2x Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis after a lengthy contract dispute. Mathis was disgruntled over his 5-year, $25 million dollar contract he signed back in 2012 with the Eagles and had been skipping the team’s voluntary offseason activities. The 11-year veteran made 9 starts for the Eagles last season, but was sent to the cutting block.

Of course, any Ex-Philadelphia Eagles player is automatically linked to the Colts, as General Manager Ryan Grigson served as the Eagles Director of Player Personnel from 2010-11 before taking the lead job as the head of Colts football operations. In addition to a handful of ex-Eagle acquisitions in recent seasons, two notable former Eagles have already made Indianapolis their new home this very offseason in pass rusher Trent Cole and guard Todd Herremans.

Could Mathis soon join them?

Nov 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis (69) on the sidelines during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Philadelphia beat Dallas 33-10. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, according to salary cap resources like Spotrac, the Colts have around $9 million in cap space. While Mathis was scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2015 and $6 million in 2016 on his old deal, he’ll likely have to settle for significantly less on a new contract, as most teams have their roster nearly fully set up and their cap space already allocated. The fact that he’s 34 years old also doesn’t help the veteran’s new contract cause.

From a salary cap standpoint, the Colts can afford Mathis at around a price tag of $4 million per year, which he’s expected to command, but it’s just a matter of whether they actually want to. Barring the release of a high-priced veteran like Donald Thomas to save additional cap space ($3.25M), it may place them uncomfortably close to the salary cap threshold with little room to spare over the course of over an entire season. However, if they really wanted to make it work with Mathis, they still have the salary cap flexibility to theoretically do so, at least on a one-year deal.

Mathis could be well-worth it too, as he was among the best guards even in his 11th NFL season. According to ProFootballFocus (subscription), he was ranked as the 2nd best guard in all of football last season at a +25.8 grade overall with the Eagles. His run block grade of +17.3 was the 3rd best among all guards. Clearly, he’s still playing football at a high level and could help jumpstart a once woeful Colts ground game.

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Given Grigson’s familiarity with Mathis, he would make a lot of sense for the Colts along their offensive line especially at guard, which remains largely unsettled. With

Gosder Cherilus

questionable health, the Colts could ultimately shift

Jack Mewhort

, which presumably leaves

Todd Herremans

,

Hugh Thornton

, and

Donald Thomas

battling for the two starting guard spots. 2 of those 3 in Thornton and Thomas are major question marks having been highly injury prone (especially Thomas) in recent seasons.

Still, with swing-tackle Joe Reitz and to a lesser extent Lance Louis serving as additional reliable guard depth, the Colts don’t necessarily have to sign Mathis, as it’s not a dire team need. However, there’s no question, he’d provide a significant upgrade to any player playing guard that’s not named Jack Mewhort. For a team with serious Super Bowl championship aspirations, he could prove to be a key veteran signing.

If the Colts really want Mathis, they can still theoretically make it work. Yet at this point in the offseason, the team may not want to overcome the hurdles that exist this late in the game and may opt to stick with the group they have and who they’ve been practicing with.

January 22, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Team Carter guard Evan Mathis of the Philadelphia Eagles (69) during the 2015 Pro Bowl practice at Luke Air Force Base. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports