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Colts make offers to two defensive leaders

INDIANAPOLIS (March 2, 2006) -- The Indianapolis Colts offered Pro Bowl linebacker Cato June and sack leader Robert Mathis one-year tenders in an effort to keep the core of their improved defense intact next season.

Both were set to become restricted free agents when the market opens March 6.

Colts spokesman Craig Kelley said he could not confirm the offers.

Mathis led the Colts with 11 1/2 sacks last season, his second straight season with a double-digit sack total.

June blossomed in his second season as a starter. The converted safety recorded 109 tackles, third most on the team, and intercepted a team-high five passes, which helped him earn his first Pro Bowl selection.

June and Mathis can still negotiate with other teams, but the Colts can match any deal they sign. If the Colts choose not to match the deal, they would receive a draft choice as compensation from the other team.

The two moves were the latest intended to shore up the Colts defense, which was faster and better last season.

On March 1, the Colts agreed to a multiyear deal with leading tackler Gary Brackett, leaving David Thornton as the only starting linebacker still set to become an unrestricted free agent March 6.

The Colts also signed defensive lineman Raheem Brock to a five-year deal Feb. 24.

The Colts, who are $6 million to $10 million over the NFL's salary cap of $94.5 million, also reportedly lost an arbitration ruling that would have helped them get underneath the cap.

The Indianapolis Star reported that the ruling prevents the Colts from converting roster bonuses totaling about $19 million into signing bonuses for Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Now team president Bill Polian faces some tough decisions. Agents for defensive tackles Corey Simon and Montae Reagor and receiver Brandon Stokley, who all have base salaries of at least $1.5 million next year, said the Colts had given them no indication whether their players might be cut.

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