According to ESPN's Adam Schefter the Indianapolis Colts have used their franchise tag on defensive end Robert Mathis to keep the nine-year veteran with the Colts for at least one more season. Mathis and the Colts are currently working on a long-term deal to keep him in Indianapolis past the 2012 season, and now it appears that the Colts have succeeded at that. Mathis agreed to an extension late Monday, and It's been reported that the terms of the contract are for four years and $36 million ($9 million per year). The Mathis signing takes one of the best pass-rushers off of the market when free agency kicks off next week.
This means that since the Colts used the tag on Mathis and the designation period has passed, wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne are both likely to hit the open market on March 13. However, now with the Mathis extension completed, the team could turn its focus on these two players as well as the contract situation surrounding Peyton Manning. There have been rumors that if Manning were to leave the Colts, he and Wayne would be "a package deal" for the franchise looking to acquire the quarterback.
While Garcon and Wayne aren't considered top-tier wide receivers, either one would be an upgrade for the Bengals offense, which currently only has A.J. Green at No.1 and Jordan Shipley at No.3 penciled in at the position. Green is coming off a stellar rookie season in which he made the Pro Bowl. However, it remains to be seen how Shipley will fare next season as he returns from an ACL injury that sidelined him for a majority of the 2011 season.
It's no mystery that the Bengals have money to spend and that they need to improve the receiving game. Either Garcon or Wayne would likely present a significant upgrade over Jerome Simpson or Andre Caldwell. Even though the draft is one route to go for improving the wide receiver situation, free agency has more proven options for the Bengals to pursue. If it's reliability that the team is looking for, they may be better served to look at a veteran for the No. 2 spot and not have to rely on a rookie.
Last season the 25-year old Garcon caught 70 passes for 947 yards and six touchdowns. Over the past three seasons he has emerged as a consistent offensive threat for the Colts. As for the 33-year old Wayne, he had yet another productive season by catching 75 passes for 960 yards and four touchdowns. Wayne has been one of the most consistent threats on offense for the Colts for the past eight seasons. And after Peyton Manning, he's probably the most recognizable Colts player in their recent history.
If the Bengals were interested in bringing Wayne into the mix, then it would provide the Bengals with an experienced veteran receiver who would be able to mentor Green and the other young receivers. And if Garcon is the one who is brought on board, then it would provide the Bengals with a solid young duo at receiver. We'll know more about the Bengals strategy in a week.