Major Free Agents: DB Tyrann Mathieu, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Mike Hughes, ER Melvin Ingram, DT Jarran Reed, DT Derrick Nnandi, WR Demarcus Robinson, WR Byron Pringle, OL Andrew Wylie
Fans see Mathieu as a dynamic superstar. Colleagues and media outlets see Mathieu as a clickable name. From what I heard at the combine, teams see him as an aging, expensive, possibly irascible square peg who doesn’t fit every system/budget/culture.
The Chiefs are hoping for a lukewarm Honey Badger market, and they might get one. The Bengals and Chargers, two potential contenders with lots of dough to spend, are mostly set at safety. Mathieu probably isn’t interested in latching onto a rebuilding program like the Jets or Jaguars. If his list of suitors is small, Mathieu could be coaxed back to Kansas City with a back-loaded, incentive-heavy contract.
The Chiefs would also love to have Ward back. Unfortunately, the market for a solid cornerback who doesn’t turn 26 until May is likely to be stratospheric, and the Chiefs don’t have much financial flexibility.
Everyone else on the free-agent list above is likely to erode away. The Chiefs can absorb many of the losses (it’s time to find better ideas than Pringle, Robinson, and Blake Bell as tertiary passing-game weapons), but some slippage back toward the pack is all but inevitable over the next few weeks.
Tyrann Mathieu, S
Chiefs’ offer: Two years, $29.5 million ($20M guaranteed) ... You’re going to cement your Hall of Fame credentials here because you’re going to help us win another couple Super Bowls. — Adam Teicher
Jets’ offer: Two years, $28 million ($21M guaranteed and one void year attached from an original three-year, $42M offer) ... It’s a chance to play in a defensive scheme that gives versatile safeties a chance to shine. — Rich Cimini
Saints’ offer: Three years, $42 million ($28M guaranteed and two void years attached from an original five-year offer) ... You can return to you hometown and play a key role for one of the NFL’s top defenses. — Mike Triplett
The decision: Mathieu picks the Chiefs
This one was really tough. Very similar offers, all very tempting for a variety of reasons. Robert Saleh’s defense would be a lot of fun, but I’m just not sure that I’m willing to spend the time with a team that far away from winning at this point in my career. And yes, Louisiana is tempting. But I really like playing in the Super Bowl, and I think staying put in Kansas City gives me the best chance to keep doing that for the foreseeable future. — Dan Graziano
Contract package: $66 million, four years ($16.5 million per year)
Overall guarantees: $35 million
Fully guaranteed at signing: $35 million
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said the team would do everything to keep Mathieu prior to the 2021 season starting. He cited the $15 million salary cap reduction from where the financial landscape would have been without the COVID-19 pandemic revenue losses affecting the salary cap as a factor for delaying a new deal. Mathieu, who turns 30 in May, seems intent on testing the market now.
Making Mathieu a franchise player was never going to be a realistic option even if left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. hadn’t received the designation. His franchise number was $23.63 million with the way the 120% salary increase provisions work for designations.
Mathieu surely took note of the Vikings giving a 32-year-old Harrison Smith a four-year extension averaging $16 million per year, which made him the league’s second-highest-paid safety, less than two weeks after the Adams deal. The average is a little misleading. It is inflated by $18.1 million in the final year of the contract.
Daxton Hill S
This makes me three for three in mocking Hill to the Chiefs. It makes too much sense to me, as Hill is a perfect long-term replacement for Tyrann Mathieu. That said, these are still the Chiefs we’re talking about. They could opt to draft another receiver for Patrick Mahomes to launch bombs to as well.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The obvious is that Smith-Schuster would love to play with Patrick Mahomes, who wouldn’t? There’s also the connection of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and Smith-Schuster. The two were close enough last year that Reid texted Smith-Schuster trying to convince him to sign in KC. The Chiefs are likely to lose Byron Pringle during free agency, and could use a tough middle of the field receiver to replace him. They have the cap room to afford him too with $19 million available as of today.
“I think, just seeing K.C. and bro, Andy Reid was just calling me and he was sending me Lombardi Trophy pictures like constantly,” Smith-Schuster told Michael Irvin last spring after re-signing in Pittsburgh. “We had a good talk, so it would’ve been K.C. after the Steelers.”
With the Chiefs still looking, they’re likely to call Smith-Schuster again and see if he’s ready to make the jump. Could you imagine Jackson Mahomes, and Smith-Schuster in Kansas City? Okay, let’s not.
Around the NFL
According to Johna Stallings, chief of the adult sex crimes and trafficking division with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the grand jury’s decision ended criminal proceedings related to Watson in Harris County, where Houston is located.
“It’s definitely a very emotional moment for me. I know we’re far from being done of handling what we need to handle on the legal side, but today is definitely a big day,” Watson, speaking to reporters for the first time in over a year, said at a news conference outside his lawyer’s office building. “I thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ for letting the truth be heard. And I thank everyone that was a part of this for seeing and hearing both sides. That’s what my point and my team wanted to do, is have a fair slate of us telling our side of the story and letting the conclusion come to what happened today, and that’s what the grand jury decided on.
“I’m just going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community. And on the legal side handle what we need to handle. But also ready to get on the field, and prep for that.”
The deal includes $95 million in new money and $53 million guaranteed, Rapoport and Pelissero added.
The news comes on the two-year anniversary of Crosby checking himself into an alcohol rehab center.
The edge rusher has earned every penny of his new contract, going from a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Michigan to a Pro Bowl edge rusher in just three years.
Crosby’s relentless motor off the edge has made him a menace. He might have been credited with just eight sacks in 2021, but he caused far more havoc than that stat indicates. He generated 82 quarterback pressures and 53 QB hurries, both tops in the NFL last season, per Next Gen Stats.
After playing the first eight seasons of his career with the Rams, Zuerlein signed with Dallas in 2020, appearing in 32 regular-season games and converting 82.9% of his field-goal attempts and 89.3% of extra-point attempts. With a cap number of $2.8 million entering 2022, Dallas chose to release him, recouping $2.485 million of that total.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
This week, OverTheCap.com — likely the expert on compensatory picks among NFL media — predicted the likelihood of each team receiving 2023 compensatory picks based on pending unrestricted free agents. Because of the team’s high number of quality players unsigned for 2022, Kansas City was rated as “very likely” to factor into the formula a year from now.
Kansas City Chiefs
As expected, the Chiefs franchise tagged Orlando Brown, Jr., but are plenty of other players that could generate a high quantity and quality of comp picks for Kansas City. They include Tyrann Mathieu, Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes, and Daniel Sorenson from the defensive backfield, Jarran Reed and Derrick Nnadi on the defensive interior, and Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson at wide receiver. Melvin Ingram also cannot be discounted despite turning 33 for next season. The Chiefs have some holes on the roster they might want to fill with signing an external CFA or two, but even in that case they should be well suited to still be on the 2023 comp picks list. Potential: Very High
If Mathieu or Ward leave Kansas City, they will be very likely to sign contracts with enough value to merit compensation. Even on the short-term deals they would be likely to get, Ingram and Reed are also probably in line for enough average value. After coming on strong late in the season and in the playoffs, Pringle is also a possibility — although his age (and deep wide receiver boards both in free agency and the draft) could leave him overlooked.
A tweet to make you think
13-0 in road division games is a bananas stat https://t.co/ylprlv4TM7— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) March 11, 2022