By Adam Aniba
The NFL free agency period is creeping up, with March 16th being the first opportunity teams will have to negotiate with available free agents. Of course, teams will get the first crack at re-signing their own free agents, but teams with minimal salary cap will have a difficult time bringing back all their pending free agents.
As it stands, Washington has just under $32 million available cap space for '22, with their headlining free agent, RG Brandon Scherff likely gone after a second straight franchise tag.
The Commanders have made it a priority to sign Terry McLaurin to a LTD, but deferring money into the future will still give them enough ammo to go after a few free agents and possibly one blue chip player.
Commanders safety Kamren Curl, has shown his versatility to bounce between safety positions, but saw more looks as a true strong safety in '21. Although free agent addition Bobby McCain(click for article) had his moments last season as a FS, more big play production is needed. Curl can be productive at either SS/FS, but Washington needs to pair him with a high intensity safety that he could learn from. The bottom line is that Ron Rivera has an opportunity to upgrade a position of need and the salary cap space to do it.
Kansas City Chiefs, do-it-all, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu finds himself with the real possibility of not returning to the Chiefs for the '22 season. He signed a 3-year contract for $42 million in '19 with $26.8 million guaranteed.
Chiefs HC Andy Reid is at a critical juncture roster wise, with just under $3.5 million in available cap space. Various media outlets have already commented on the fact that KC paying Mathieu his market value is unlikely and so is the safety accepting a significant home team discount.
Some fans might scoff at the idea of paying the kind of money Mathieu will demand in the open market. Something to keep in mind is that unlike other aging vets Washington has signed, the Honey Badger has played some of his best ball with Kansas City over the last 2 seasons. In fact, he went to 2 Super Bowls, made the All-Pro team and Pro Bowl twice.
Mathieu may be turning 30, but his impact over the last two season was undeniable, registering 138 total tackles (108 solo) 9 ints, 5 tak for a loss, 4 fumbles recovered, 15 passes defended and 2 tds. Another selling point for making a move for Mathieu, other than his All-Pro production, is his durability.
Since '17, Mathieu has only had 1 season in which he played in less than 16 games (15 games in '20). The ageless wonder, Charles Woodson (18 seasons for the Raiders and Packers) is another versatile defensive back that comes to mind when projecting the type of value Mathieu could add to a Washington defensive backfield.
Like Mathieu, Woodson wore multiple hats on defense, jumping back and forth between SS, FS and CB during his career.
It would come as a surprise to some to see the heart of the Chiefs defense leave via free agency, but Mathieu has an opportunity to cash in while his stock is at an all time high.
Per his Twitter comments, Mathieu doesn't sound encouraged about returning. The Chiefs have had positive returns in the draft as of late, particularly on defense with rookie LB Nick Bolton ('20 article).
It's likely the cap strapped Chiefs will use the draft to solidify their roster, while making cuts to extend their prize LT.
KC gave up multiple draft picks, which included a 1st to the Ravens for Orlando Brown Jr last season and they have every intention in bringing him back on a LTD/franchise tag.
Washington's defense has had its ups and downs over the last two seasons, but the revolving door at safety needs to close. Adding a player of Mathieu's caliber could dramatically change the trajectory of Del Rio's defense for the next 2-3 years.
Regardless, if they make a push for a QB in a trade or in the draft, adding a blue chip difference maker on defense is imperative and they have the cap to do it. As mentioned, Mathieu has 9 ints for 2 tds over the last two seasons, but can also be a force playing close to the line.
The play at FS has been unacceptable and inconsistent since the loss of Sean Taylor and the defense is in dire need of an upgrade. Although he'll be expensive, Mathieu makes everybody around him better and is an unquestioned leader.
The Honey Badger understands the nuances of reading the quarterback and has an innate ability to get everybody in position in the defensive backfield. Having the ability to be interchangeable, playing in the box or in single high sets, make Mathieu an asset worth chasing.
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