The NFL season hasn’t even ended, but Baltimore Ravens star inside linebacker Patrick Queen is already looking for ways to bolster the Ravens defense for the 2022 season by recruiting fellow LSU alum and All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu is set to hit free agency in March after spending the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs earning two first-team All-Pro nods and two selections to the Pro Bowl. His 2022 AFC Pro Bowl teammates even voted Mathieu to be their captain, the veteran safety revealed on February 3.
But Mathieu’s comments and tweets since the Chiefs’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game indicate that he won’t be re-signing with the Chiefs, per Heavy’s Devon Clements, making him a free agent for the first time since 2019.
He did promise that the 2022 season “will be my greatest year yet!” in a February 1 tweet, which prompted a brief exchange between Queen and Mathieu on Twitter.
Then Queen overtly co-signed the idea of Mathieu joining him on Baltimore’s defense, a tweet that immediately got Ravens fans excited about free agency.
Some fans even posted a mock-up of Mathieu in a Ravens jersey, throwing a jab at Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in the process.
Mathieu’s expiring contract with the Chiefs paid him $42 million over three years for an average annual value of $14 million, according to Spotrac, but his success in Kansas City could lead him to pursue a contract of $15 million per year or more. As of February 4, the Ravens only have $8.5 million in 2022 salary cap space, per Over The Cap, though executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta indicated that number would go up before free agency during an end-of-season press conference.
“We’ll be making some moves at some point,” said DeCosta on February 4, “We’ll have some more cap room at some point. We could pretty much sign anybody we want to sign if we could get a deal done.”
Mathieu Would Be Perfect Fit in Baltimore
Mathieu’s playmaking and versatility at safety would be an ideal fit in Baltimore’s defense under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
Mathieu has recorded at least three interceptions in each of his seasons with the Chiefs and is more than capable of sticking with receivers and tight ends in coverage. He’s also a willing run defender who plays team defense rather than chasing individual statistics, an approach that would be welcome in the Ravens’ scheme.
The Honey Badger is also a vocal leader on the field and in the locker room, which could fill a void in Baltimore left by the potential departures of veteran defenders Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Jimmy Smith this offseason.
The Ravens were even rumored to be interested in Mathieu back in 2019, according to PFF’s Ari Meirov, before he signed with the Chiefs.
New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams could be another free agent target for the Ravens, as he will be a free agent in March as well. Williams could command a similar salary to Mathieu, but he’s four years younger, so he might be a better long-term option for the Ravens.
Ravens Not Ruling Out Re-Signing Elliott
“Ravens officials love Elliott and they’re not ruling out his return,” wrote Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic on January 14.
2021 third-round pick Brandon Stephens could also be the Ravens’ starting safety of the future after starting for Elliott 11 times last season, including Baltimore’s last nine games. He suffered through some growing pains in his first season at safety after playing running back at UCLA and cornerback at SMU, but he was reliable in coverage and against the run by the end of the season. Stephens earned an overall defensive grade of 75.0 or better from Pro Football Focus in three of the Ravens’ last four games.