Kansas City Chiefs star defensive back Tyrann Mathieu met with the media on Thursday and made it very clear that he wants to stay with the team well beyond the point his contract expires at the end of this coming season.
Mathieu went out of his way to praise the coaching staff in K.C., and the safety even went as far as saying, “I can’t see me wearing any other uniform”.
This is music to Chiefs fans ears, as Mathieu has not only been a great player on the field, but one of the teams most outspoken leaders and the heart and soul of the defense. It would be absolutely unimaginable for the Chiefs to not be interested in extending Mathieu, so if he wants to be in K.C., it is just a matter of trying to make the money work.
What might a realistic contract extension for Tyrann Mathieu look like?
As Chiefs fans, our first instinct might be to call Mathieu the best safety in the NFL, but is that how he’s viewed by those outside the Chiefs Kingdom? Doug Farrar recently did a piece for USA Today on the NFL’s top safeties and he had Mathieu ranked second behind Denver’s Justin Simmons. Pro Football Focus also did a similar piece recently where they ranked the top safeties and had Mathieu all the way down at #11 (which is absurd), but they also had Simmons as the number one safety. Pete Prisco of CBS recently did a list of the 100 best players in the NFL and had Mathieu ranked at #34 overall and the top safety on the list. So I think it’s fair to say that Mathieu is widely viewed as one of the top safeties in all the NFL.
If that’s the case, he is naturally going to want to be paid accordingly. In two of the lists above, Simmons was ranked as the best safety in the league and that’s relevant to this conversation because he recently signed a deal that made him the highest-paid safety in the league in terms of average dollars per year at $15.25 million (over four years). That’s only a little bit higher than the $14 million/year that Mathieu is getting from the Chiefs, which has him currently tied for the fifth highest paid safety in the NFL with Washington’s Landon Collins.
Collins also currently has the highest total contract value for a safety at $84 million (over six years), but with how the guaranteed money is structured, he could be a potential cap cut in either of the final two seasons of the deal, which would obviously keep him from reaching that total amount. In terms of the most guaranteed dollars for a safety, that is also Collins with $44.5 million. Simmons is second with $35 million.
So if Mathieu is going to be paid like one of the top safeties in the NFL, those are some numbers to keep in mind. I don’t think a potential Mathieu deal will reach the length or total dollars of Landon Collins. Collins was several years younger at the time he signed that deal. I think the Simmons deal is a much better measuring stick to use. Simmons is currently 27 and will turn 28 during the coming season. So he’ll be 31 when his four year contract extension is up. Mathieu just turned 29 in May, so if he were to sign a similar deal that adds three more years on to the one he is currently under contract for, he would be 32 at the end of that deal. So the ages are similar and both players are viewed as two of the top safeties in the NFL right now.
Simmons was franchise tagged this offseason, but eventually signed a four-year, $61 million dollar deal with $35 million in guarantees. Let’s say Mathieu wanted to be able to say he was the highest-paid safety in the NFL (in terms of average dollars/season), it would take a four year, $62 million dollar extension to get that done. If the Chiefs only wanted to add two new years to the deal, it would take a new three year, $46.5 million deal to beat Simmons per-year average. That deal would be pretty similar to the three-year, $42 million dollar deal that brought Mathieu to Kansas City in the first place.
I believe that since this is likely his last chance at a premium contract in the prime of his career, that Mathieu would prefer to sign a little longer deal, so I think the four year deal (that adds three new years) and would look very similar to Simmons’ deal is the more likely option.
The other thing that Mathieu has going for him is that he is really kind of a hybrid safety/cornerback. Last season, Pro Football Focus had 37% of his defensive snaps as either a slot or outside corner. There are only seven cornerbacks in all the NFL with a higher yearly contract amount than Mathieu’s current $14 mil average. However, the very top corners do make more than any safety, led by Jalen Ramsey who’s current deal averages $20 mil per year. While I don’t think any safety will see that number any time soon, if I was Mathieu’s agent I might point out that 30-year-old Darius Slay is averaging almost $16.7 mil on his current deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Given the choice, I think most teams would rather have Mathieu than Slay.
The good news for the Chiefs accounting department is that we aren’t talking about yearly averages that are a lot different than the $14 mil per year that Mathieu signed the first time with Kansas City. Assuming that the salary cap does start to balloon by the back end of his next deal, a $16M average over four years should end up being a lesser percentage of the total cap than his original deal with the Chiefs.
If I was Brett Veach, I would offer Mathieu a four-year deal that replaces his current last year and tacks on three new seasons. That would keep him in K.C. through the 2024 season. I would make it a four-year, $64 million offer with $20 million dollar signing bonus and the first two years of the deal fully guaranteed, bringing the total guaranteed money to $36 million. That would edge out Simmons in total money, yearly average, and guaranteed dollars.
The Chiefs could structure it something like this:
- 2021: $5M prorated bonus, $7M salary, $12M cap hit
- 2022: $5M prorated bonus, $9M salary, $14M cap hit
- 2023: $5M prorated bonus, $13M salary, $17M cap hit
- 2024: $5M prorated bonus, $15M salary, $20M cap hit
This structure would clear up another $7 million in cap space for this coming season if the Chiefs needed to make another impact signing (Overthecap.com currently has them with about $7.9M in space).
This deal also keeps the cap hit fairly manageable for next season as well, with the big jump in cap space expected in 2023. The $20 million cap hit in 2024 is sizable considering Mathieu will be 32 by then, but it’s only a tiny bit larger than the $19.7 million cap hit he is currently due this season and the Chiefs could save $15 million of that if they decided to cut him at that point.
If the Chiefs are more worried about cap space either this season or next year, they could play around with Mathieu’s salary structure even more to create more space in either of those two seasons.
So what do you think Chiefs fans? Are we all in agreement that the Chiefs absolutely should extend Tyrann Mathieu and that he deserves to be paid amongst the top safeties in all the NFL? Do you think it’s a good idea to add three more new years or would you make the deal longer or shorter? Do you think the contract numbers I laid out are reasonable? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.
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