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NFL Draft

Will Chiefs Be Able To Extend Tyrann Mathieu?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 18, 2021
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We saw a pretty big contract extension at the safety position on Tuesday when the Seattle Seahawks inked Jamal Adams to a new record-breaking deal. Jessie Bates III could be the next dynamic safety in line for a pay raise, though talks have apparently stalled in Cincinnati. That brought me to the question, can the Kansas City Chiefs afford to extend Tyrann Mathieu? And perhaps more importantly, what would it mean for the rest of the roster if they did or didn’t?

Mathieu is coming off one of his strongest seasons in the league at the tender age of 29. He led the team in interceptions with six and totaled an impressive 61 tackles and nine passes defensed in 2020. Whether or not Mathieu is deserving of a long-term commitment isn’t the question, but the particulars of how it could shape the future of the franchise are worth analyzing.

The Chiefs currently have $6.8 million in cap space, per Spotrac. With teams still employing an 85-man roster, there are changes coming to this figure in the coming weeks, but it’s probably safe to assume this is a good ballpark number for where the Chiefs will operate around this season.

When looking at the rest of the roster, Mathieu isn’t the only key cog that appears set to play out the final year of his deal. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who the team acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Baltimore Ravens in April of this year, is also on the last year of his contract. Given the fact that the Chiefs sent a bundle of picks the other way to secure Brown’s services, including a first-round pick, it’s easy to envision a scenario where general manager Brett Veach prioritizes getting a deal done with Brown before Mathieu.

There are multiple ways this could go. The Chiefs could let Mathieu play out the remaining year on his contract and this year and then decide what to do with their three-time first-team All-Pro safety. Financials will obviously play a huge role, and as things stand, the Chiefs will be up against the cap in 2022 once again. They could also look to negotiate a contract extension with him immediately in an effort to give them more flexibility in 2021, and it could be an idea worth exploring before Bates (and possibly Minkah Fitzpatrick) reset the safety market all over again. The franchise tag could also be an option.

If a Mathieu extension was going to happen this season, it probably would have done so by now. Looking at the history of their negotiations with Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones, the Chiefs finalized both of those big extensions in the month of July. We’re now approaching the end of August and Veach recently admitted that reaching a deal could be tough given the team’s cap situation.

“We’ve had a chance to talk to Tyrann and his representation, and I think it’s a little difficult with the landscape right now of having two cap-shortened offseasons and where we are in regards to our offseason projections,” Veach told SiriusXM.

If the Chiefs can’t afford to extend Mathieu, and there’s a good chance they can’t, they’d be losing the leader of their defense. Mathieu is one of the most versatile safeties in the league. One could argue that he’s the team’s most valuable player not named Mahomes. He’s a true chess piece that impacts the game in a manner that few defensive backs can match.

Replacing a player like Mathieu is almost impossible. They just don’t make many players with his ability and versatility. The Chiefs would have to strike gold in order to find a like-for-like match in the 2022 NFL Draft. A more realistic scenario would likely include a “replacement by committee” type of approach.

Mathieu is an excellent player, but the Chiefs have some tough decisions to make in the not-so-distant future.

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