The San Francisco 49ers are still a win away from sealing their second playoff appearance in the Kyle Shanahan era. However, there are fans and media members already thinking about who could bolster the ‘Niners moving forward.
And, with 29 expected free agents for 2022, four 49ers who could walk via the free agency market all represent the safety position.
That’s where this suggestion from Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski on Thursday, January 6 comes in: Add to the safety unit by getting what he called the “crown jewel” of what will likely be a rebuilt unit for 2022.
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And this particular player set to become a 2022 free agent once helped snatch a Super Bowl away from the 49ers back in February 2020.
49ers Urged to Add $42 Million Player
The player Sobleski refers to in his article titled “The Best Player Every NFL Team Could Potentially Add in 2022?” Kansas City Chiefs star Tyrann Mathieu.
That’s right. The three-time Pro Bowler, the three-time First Team All-Pro and the safety who collected six tackles including four solo stops in the 31-20 come-from-behind victory in Miami over the 49ers to win the Chiefs’ second-ever Vince Lombardi Trophy.
While Mathieu said via Jared Dubin of CBS Sports back on June 17, 2021 that he “can’t see himself wearing any other uniform” other than the Chiefs, he’s still in the final year of the three-year, $42 million deal he signed with the team.
Granted, per Spotrac, the Chiefs have $29,352,512 in salary cap space for the next free agency cycle — which can give Kansas City some financial flexibility to resign Mathieu. However, with Mathieu entering his 30s and with the production he’s delivered as a versatile Swiss Army-knife type defender, there could be teams that flash a mega contract to him. Especially the ones aspiring to add one more piece in their desire to win the Super Bowl.
Here’s what Sobleski said on why Mathieu and the 49ers can be a strong pairing:
“The San Francisco 49ers are once again facing the possibility of a rebuilt secondary. Mathieu could be the crown jewel of the new-look unit. The 49ers have two selling points: Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is a former player, and James Bettcher, who served as Mathieu’s coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals, is on San Francisco’s staff. Maybe it’s not enough to lure Mathieu from where he’s comfortable. But the 49ers have to try.”
Mathieu does share this connection too with Ryans: They’re former Houston Texans. Although Mathieu played one season in Houston and collected 89 tackles and 70 solo stops in his lone season there in 2018 per Pro Football Reference.
And Bettcher serves as senior defensive assistant/run game specialist for the 49ers. During the time Mathieu played in Arizona with Bettcher as the defensive coordinator from 2015 to 2017, Mathieu tallied 202 tackles, 183 solo stops, three sacks, three forced fumbles and swooped up eight interceptions during the course of those three seasons.
Is There Room for Mathieu?
To reiterate, the 49ers have a quartet of safeties set to become unrestricted free agents once March 16, 2022 arrives (the beginning of the free agency period): Tavon Wilson, Marcell Harris, Tarvarius Moore and Jaquiski Tartt. Of the four, Harris has the highest value at $1.2 million.
Unlike the Chiefs, the 49ers will be working with $10,569,930 in total cap space for the 2022 offseason spending period. They may have to get Mathieu at a lesser value if a move were to be made.
However, the possibility of Mathieu in a 49ers uniform is beyond intriguing. Especially considering his body of work. And there are selling points that could persuade Mathieu to come over to the Bay.
For starters, the 49ers have a fast-rising cornerback in Emmanuel Moseley who was putting together a Pro Bowl caliber year before suffering a high-ankle sprain. The secondary also has two steadily improving rookies in Ambry Thomas at cornerback and Talanoa Hufanga at safety. Fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir has also shown early flashes when in action. Plus let’s not forget that Jimmie Ward is in this secondary as well and brings a savvy veteran presence. Possibly adding Mathieu can add an additional captain and leadership presence.
And here’s where Mathieu can really help: The 49ers have only snatched seven team interceptions this season — the worst among NFC teams.
If the ‘Niners were to make one splashy move in free agency this spring, Mathieu could top S.F’s list.