Ever since entering the league back in 2013, Tyrann Mathieu has been one of the best and most consistent defensive backs when healthy. Mathieu has battled injuries throughout his career, but nobody can deny his talent when he’s at full strength. He may not be the player he once was, but he’s still a strong starter who most teams would love to have. After playing in all 16 games for the second straight season, Mathieu should find a long-term deal as a free agent.
2019 NFL Free Agency Profile: Tyrann Mathieu
After parting ways with the Arizona Cardinals following the 2017 season, Mathieu spent the entirety of 2018 with the AFC South champion Houston Texans. Playing in all 16 games, Mathieu recorded 89 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. While he’s listed as a safety, Mathieu is also capable of playing cornerback at a high level. Basically, when at his best the Honey Badger is a chess piece capable of playing any role in the secondary.
Mathieu’s best season came during the 2015 campaign with Arizona. Starting in 14 games, Mathieu recorded 90 tackles (11 for loss) with one sack and five interceptions. Mathieu truly was all over the field, and his elite play earned him Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors. The 2015 Cardinals made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, but an ACL injury forced Mathieu to miss the postseason run.
Despite missing just 14 games throughout his six-year career, Mathieu’s body has been through quite a few serious injuries. As previously mentioned, Mathieu missed the end of the 2016 season with an ACL injury. Said injury was actually the second of his NFL career, as the Honey Badger missed the final three games of his rookie season with an ACL tear. Additionally, Mathieu suffered a shoulder injury in 2016 which limited him to just ten games.
Mathieu is a freak athlete and he always comes back at full strength once he’s finally healthy. At age 27, he should still be in his athletic prime. That said, the human body can only take so many major injuries, so Mathieu comes with a fairly significant injury risk.
Mathieu played well in Houston, finishing the year as the 22nd-ranked safety, per Pro Football Focus. He was a natural fit in the Texans defense and should only get better with another year in the system. Houston is projected to have just over $59 million in cap space in 2019, so they can easily sign Mathieu while addressing their other free agency needs.
Should Mathieu depart for greener pastures, the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers should be two of the top teams in contention. Oakland had one of the worst all-around rosters last season, but they were surprisingly good at stopping opposing top receivers. According to Football Outsiders, Oakland was the second-best team at stopping an opposing teams’ top wideout and 13th at defending the opposing teams second-best wide receiver.
However, their passing defense was one of the worst in the league thanks to their complete inability to stop tight ends and slot receivers. Oakland ranked 31st and 26th in the league, respectively, at stopping those types of players. Mathieu excels at taking away those options and his presence would immediately improve a struggling defense.
Likewise, the San Franciso 49ers are in desperate need of a playmaker. The 49ers ranked 27th in pass defense DVOA and finished the year with a league-low two interceptions. They need help all across the board and Mathieu would immediately improve one of the more underwhelming secondary’s in football.
Last Word on Tyrann Mathieu in Free Agency
Coming on the heels of a one-year, “prove it” deal, Mathieu showed he’s capable of staying healthy while still playing at a high level. The six-year NFL veteran is listed as a safety but has the ability to pay cornerback and move all around the secondary. He’s not as fast or as explosive as he once was, but he’s still a capable starter in just about any defensive scheme. He carries some injury risk, but he managed to stay healthy and play complete seasons in each of the past two years.
Mathieu played well with the Houston Texans, and there’s a very real chance that the team opts to bring him around for another season. Mathieu started all 16 games and finished the year as the 22nd-ranked safety in the league. It stands to reason that he would only get better with another year in the same defensive scheme.
Should Mathieu test the open market, the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers should be two of his most likely landing spots. Oakland was simply incapable of covering tight ends and slot receivers, so Mathieu would be an immediate fit there. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers need help all across their secondary. Mathieu won’t be enough to singlehandedly fix either secondary, but he’d help point them in the right direction.
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