Super Bowl champ, three-time All-Pro, and three-time Pro Bowl defensive back Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu might be on his way out of Kansas City. The Chiefs safety is a free agent, and while both parties said the right things about re-signing this offseason, Mathieu’s latest actions suggest otherwise. He posted a cryptic message on Twitter about replacing him, and placed three fire emojis under a photo of him in a New Orleans Saints jersey.
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) March 5, 2022
— Brenden Ertle (@BrendenErtle) March 7, 2022
The Saints were the No. 3 defense last season in total DVOA. Fourth in pass DVOA and first in rush DVOA. Adding a three-time All-Pro with a high football IQ would make the defense even more formidable.
From our NFL Combine coverage: A look at some of the key DB storylines in free agency, including the value (money-wise and locker room-wise) of the Honey Badger. pic.twitter.com/tEsidChGJd
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 6, 2022
The Chiefs don’t want to lose Mathieu but they just franchise tagged offensive lineman Orlando Brown, and that will impact their cap. They can create $22 million in salary cap space for 2022 by converting Patrick Mahomes’ roster bonus into a signing bonus. This would effectively lower Mahomes’ cap number for 2022 from over $35 million to right under $14 million.
But with slots for 2022 draft picks and other free agents they will have to do some maneuvering. Mathieu could earn a larger payday somewhere else. The allure of returning home to finish his career might be tough for the Chiefs to compete with.
The Saints have a free agent safety of their own in Marcus Williams, who could potentially depart if he and the franchise cannot come to a long-term agreement on a deal. Williams, who was graded as one of the better safeties in the NFL, would be a tough loss for the Saints.
If Mathieu wanted the best chance at another Super Bowl, staying in Kansas City with Mahomes and company is likely the best option. Another contender with a top-flight quarterback could also try and make a play for the free agent. His presence would elevate any locker room he enters.
Or he could simply choose the option where he will maximize his earning potential, as this will be his final big payday in the NFL. You couldn’t fault him if that was his top priority.
This is the reality of a league with a hard salary cap. In order for a team to remain in contention for championships year after year, financial sacrifices must be made. When the team amasses talent at key positions and players develop, there are too many mouths to feed.
Whatever Mathieu decides to do, he is well within his rights. He’s a free agent and doesn’t owe the Chiefs or their fans anything. If they want him to take less money, he can accept or refuse. If he refuses and decides to get a bigger deal on a less talented team, that is also his right.
The Honey Badger is from New Orleans and was a prep star at St. Augustine High School. He went on to star at LSU, earning All-America and All-SEC honors. He was also the SEC defensive player of the year and the Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the best defensive player in the nation.
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