The Kansas City Chiefs are currently in the middle of one of the greatest defensive turnarounds in recent history.
The league’s “best scoring defense in the NFL since Week 8” has yielded just 12.9 points per game over that span. They have also allowed 17 points or fewer in seven out of their last eight games.
One big reason for that is safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has been the vocal team leader of this unit in 2021 once again. Unfortunately, the ‘Honey Badger’ is also an impending free agent after the season concludes.
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PFF Projects Earnings for Mathieu
Always active on Twitter, Mathieu posted a subliminal message when the new NFL cap was announced at a projection of $208.2 million. Make no mistake, the soon-to-be 30-year-old is looking to get paid one last time and it’s unclear if Kansas City is the franchise that’s willing to do it.
Pro Football Focus writer Brad Spielberger came up with an approximation for his contract extension in a recent article and a figure close to his estimation may price GM Brett Veach out of the running.
Spielberger wrote: “Two contract extensions signed before the 2021 season will make every safety negotiation this upcoming offseason a battle between player and club: Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams inking a four-year, $70 million deal and Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith following that with a four-year, $64 million pact. The trend with safety compensation had not been overwhelmingly positive for a few offseasons before these players broke through, and the question is how much this new landscape will impact the situation overall.”
The PFF article also weighed Mathieu’s projection with recent signings like Logan Ryan and Jordan Poyer, due to their age and style of play. He added that the Chiefs playmaker is “no ordinary safety,” highlighting his versatility, leadership and the defensive turnaround mentioned above.
“Kansas City has shown with its huge investments in edge defender Frank Clark and interior defender Chris Jones that it prioritizes building through the front seven. The question remaining is whether the Chiefs still value Mathieu’s contributions as highly as they did back in 2019,” Spielberger concluded.
His final valuation at this time was: “Three years, $46.125 million ($15.375M per year), $30 million total guaranteed.”
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More Money, More Problems
It’s true, the higher cap does provide KC with more money to spend on players like Mathieu but it also means that agents will look for a larger payday for their clients.
As we mentioned above, the Honey Badger doesn’t appear to be interested in a hometown discount. That’s not the only issue either, as Veach has several key pieces to re-sign.
One is left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who could make nine figures in 2022. The Chiefs traded a first-round pick to bring the blindside blocker in so it’s unlikely they let him walk.
Another is cornerback Charvarius Ward, a second important cog in this secondary. The former undrafted prospect did not play in Weeks 3-6 this season and KC went 2-2 over that stretch with 30-plus points allowed in three of four games.
Other snap-leaders that are impending free agents are:
- Daniel Sorensen, safety, age 32 (next year).
- Jarran Reed, defensive tackle, age 30.
- Demarcus Robinson, wide receiver, age 28.
- Ben Niemann, linebacker, age 27.
- Melvin Ingram, edge rusher, age 33.
- Mike Hughes, cornerback, age 25.
- Byron Pringle, wide receiver, age 29.
- Darrel Williams, running back, age 27.
- Alex Okafor, edge rusher, age 31.
- Derrick Nnadi, defensive tackle, age 26.
- Josh Gordon, wide receiver, age 31.
- Mike Remmers, right tackle, age 33.
The Chiefs currently have a little over $28.1 million in projected cap space next season according to Over the Cap. It may take some finagling if Veach hopes to bring back the bulk of these contributors in 2022.