The Kansas City Chiefs opened free agency by agreeing to terms with former Houston Texans safety Justin Reid on Monday evening. Reid spoke with the Kansas City media after officially signing his contract on Thursday.
As the Chiefs defense makes its most significant transition in personnel in three seasons, Reid will inevitably be compared to (likely) outgoing safety Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is currently a free agent and appears set to leave Kansas City after three seasons. Mathieu played an immeasurable role in improving the 2019 Chiefs defense leading to a Super Bowl title. His departure leaves a leadership void that players like Reid will attempt to fill.
The Chiefs’ new safety is intimately familiar with what the Chiefs are losing in Mathieu; the two were teammates with the Texans during Reid’s rookie season in 2018.
“Tyrann — I will never forget — his thing was the mentality and attitude,” Reid recalled. “The work ethic and playing with just a savviness. He called it ‘Championship Swagger.’ Fall forward. His pregame speeches were second to none. He was a big leader in the room. He’s someone that everyone gravitated to.”
With rosters constantly in flux, every team periodically loses influential locker room leaders. However, with Reid, the Chiefs have the rare situation where the player already has experience replacing that exact leader.
“Whenever he did leave Houston,” Reid explained, “I kind of took up a little of that role by the precedent that he had set. Tyrann is an unbelievable guy; he’s an unbelievable player. He’s a friend of mine. Whoever ends up picking him up in free agency is going to be lucky to grab a guy like that.”
Now a veteran, Reid knows that he cannot simply enter the locker room and assume Mathieu’s role.
“That’s not something that’s just given or appointed to someone,” he acknowledged. “That’s something that you earn in the locker room with the guys themselves. So that’s why it’s a big point to me: I want to shake every man’s hand in that locker room, look them in the eye, and know them by their name. In order to receive respect, you first have to give respect.
“I’m big on that. I want to earn these guys’ respect. I want to prove to them that I can be the leader. But that’s not something that’s just given to me — I have to earn that.”
Reid is ready to state his case to his new teammates, though he knows he will not be a one-to-one replacement for his predecessor.
“I have always said this,” he added, “That a copy is never worth as much as an original. There never — ever — be another Tyrann Mathieu to come through Kansas City. There just won’t. But I can bring the best Justin Reid possible to Kansas City. So that’s my mentality.
“I’m going to play to my strengths. I’m going to play to who I am. I’m going to play to the defense. (Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) has some creative things we are going to do going forward. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play great defense and great ball.”