JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Cornerback Rashean Mathis chose familiarity over uncertainty.
Mathis decided to avoid free agency by signing a one-year, incentive-laden contract with the Jaguars on Thursday. The deal could be worth $5 million if he plays all 16 games this season. He has missed 17 games over the last four seasons because of injuries.
"Some people will ask why I wouldn't test the market," he said. "But I don't think too many guys really want to do that. It's usually something you have to do. For me, it was an easy decision."
A second-round draft pick out of Bethune-Cookman in 2003, Mathis has spent his entire career in Jacksonville. He has 538 tackles and a franchise-record 30 interceptions in 125 career games.
"It's always a confidence boost to know you're wanted," Mathis said.
Mathis said he never even thought about seeing what kind of contract he could get elsewhere, partly because he's coming off knee surgery and partly because he's spent most of his life in Jacksonville.
"Where I'm at in my career, I never considered leaving," he said. "A few years back, I could have had those thoughts. But not now. It wasn't about finding competitive numbers. It was finding a good fit and a good career plan."
Signing now also allowed Mathis to continue his rehabilitation in Florida. He had surgery three months ago to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He started running a few weeks ago, and although he likely will be limited in minicamp and organized team activities, Mathis expects to be ready for training camp in July.
"I'm good," he said. "Everything is looking great. I'm doing some agility stuff, but I can't really take that next step until I get my quad strength back."
Mathis missed the final seven games last year after hurting his knee. He also missed six games in 2009 because of groin and finger injuries, and sat out four games in 2008 because of a knee injury.
When healthy, though, Mathis has proven he can be an elite cornerback.
Without Mathis, the Jaguars would have had a significant hole to fill in free agency or the draft. With him back on the roster, general manager Gene Smith has more flexibility to focus on adding at least one receiver and an elite defensive end.
"It's all about staying healthy," Mathis said. "If I can stay healthy, there's no doubt things will work out for me and for the team."