Barnwell, however, does not anticipate a deal coming together as Dallas likely continues its quantity-over-quality approach despite desperately requiring a “long-term solution” at safety.
“While most of the focus will inevitably fall on offensive free agents Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys need to come away from this offseason with replacements at safety,” Barnwell wrote on February 24. “Their top three players at the position from a year ago are all free agents. It’s unclear whether Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee or Malik Hooker will be back in 2022. Keanu Neal, whom they converted from safety to linebacker, is also a free agent.
“Dallas didn’t spend much at safety last offseason, and with running back Ezekiel Elliott’s contract still virtually unmovable before 2023, I don’t anticipate the organization making too many splashy additions in free agency. The Cowboys would love a safety such as Tyrann Mathieu, but this is probably a position they will address in bulk.”
Rather than splurge on Mathieu, Barnwell expects the Cowboys to re-sign an in-house option while also fortifying the position with a premium draft selection.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought back one of their safeties, added a low-cost option in free agency and used one of their top three picks in the draft to find a future starter,” he wrote.
ALL the latest Dallas Cowboys news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cowboys newsletter here!
Quick Refresher on the ‘Honey Badger’
Among the biggest playmakers of his generation, Mathieu is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro who’s notched 76 pass deflections, 26 interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns across 129 career games (120). The 29-year-old entered the NFL as a 2013 third-round choice of the Arizona Cardinals.
He’s spent the past three seasons in Kansas City, earning two Pro Bowl trips and winning a Super Bowl championship. Mathieu has tallied 213 combined tackles (171 solo), 27 pass breakups, 13 INTs, four fumble recoveries, three sacks, and two TDs for the Chiefs.
Mathieu logged 16 regular-season appearances in 2021, ranking as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 38 S among 92 qualifiers. He drew a solid coverage rating (75.7) but struggled against the run (50.4), per the analytics outlet.
Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Mathieu Projected to Land Massive Contract
Slotting him as the 17th-best free agent slated to hit the unrestricted market, Pro Football Focus predicted that Mathieu will ink a three-year, $48.75 million pact (including $30.75 million guaranteed) with the Baltimore Ravens.
“All signs have pointed to the Chiefs and Mathieu splitting up, and his playmaking skills would be welcome anywhere,” PFF’s Arjun Menon wrote on February 21. “The Ravens’ needs are tough to evaluate because their entire secondary was hurt last year, but they were interested in Mathieu when he was a free agent in 2019, so he could be on their radar again given their current situation at safety.
“Additionally, their new defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald had a similar versatile safety at Michigan in Daxton Hill, who lined up all over the place. Hill played box safety, slot corner and some dime backer for MacDonald, which is a role Mathieu can emulate.”
The Ravens would have to clear a bit of room for Mathieu as they own about $8.7 million in salary-cap space, per OverTheCap.com. Conversely, the Cowboys — $22.1 million over the league’s cap — are unable to assume such a financial commitment without intensive roster maneuvering.