It was a natural fit and a comfortable situation for a football team looking for a strong leader and a veteran player looking for a home. Tyrann Mathieu joining his hometown New Orleans Saints always felt like it was bound to happen. Now it will, as Mathieu and other veteran players like him will no longer count against the compensatory pick formula.
Mathieu has signed a three-year, $33 million contract that included $18 million guaranteed, per a league source.
The Saints needed an influx of talent and experience at the safety position after Marcus Williams signed a massive contract with the Baltimore Ravens and Malcolm Jenkins retired. They have Marcus Maye, but Mathieu is something different with his emotional, instinctive style of play. Mathieu, a former LSU standout, has attended some of their practices in Baton Rouge and spoken to the football team at new coach Brian Kelly’s invitation.
Saints players recruited Tyrann Mathieu
When it became clear that he wouldn’t be rejoining the Kansas City Chiefs after declining their contract offer last summer, Mathieu, an active social media user, wrote: “Replacing me is easy. Getting them to do the same thing I did is damn near impossible.”
For months, Saints defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson has been recruiting the Honey Badger on social media. Now, it’s about to happen. A nine-year veteran and former Arizona Cardinals All-Pro selection, Mathieu has played in 129 games with 120 starts and has recorded 26 interceptions with 3 returned for touchdowns. He has 4 forced fumbles with 6 fumble recoveries, 10 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, 41 tackles for loss, and 610 total tackles.
Mathieu was incredibly valuable for the Chiefs as a hard-hitting, rangy safety capable of playing multiple positions. Now 29 years old, Mathieu is an incredibly productive team leader who was named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the second time last season.
When his three-year, $42 million contract expired, his exit from Kansas City was always expected, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly, one year after contract discussions didn’t result in an extension. The two sides weren’t on the same page in terms of financial expectations.
The Chiefs’ safety position was left in good hands with Juan Thornhill and the recently signed Justin Reid. The Saints have always been of high interest to Mathieu, and it’s long been a mutual situation of interest, according to sources.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, Mathieu had 76 tackles (60 solo), 2 tackles for losses, 3 interceptions, and 6 pass deflections last season. He returned an interception for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
Mathieu’s last deal included $26.8 million guaranteed, a $14.8 million signing bonus, and an average annual salary of $14 million. Mathieu had multiple NFL teams interested in his services the last time he was a free agent.
His 30th birthday is in May, but the view around the league is that Mathieu remains a viable player with something left to contribute as a leader and all-around defender.