Tyrann Mathieu is still a free agent nearly a month after negotiations first opened. This is mildly surprising. At first, everybody expected the player known as the "Honey Badger" to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, the team he revitalized his career with after a torn ACL and the place he had established himself as an emotional leader for a championship team. Plus, leaving Kansas City while Patrick Mahomes is still there is not the type of thing a competitor of Mathieu's type does.
But it seems the money wasn't right or the Chiefs simply weren't interested. They signed former Texans safety Justin Reid to a decent-sized deal and Mathieu remained on the open market. Thus, here we are three weeks later. Mathieu is probably the biggest name left on the market, and still has something to give. He had six passes defended as one of the few competent members of Kansas City's secondary last year along with three interceptions and 76 tackles. Any smart defensive coordinator could use a do-it-all safety like Mathieu.
So where will he end up? Here are a few options.
Los Angeles Rams
On Tuesday morning, Dan Graziano reported the Rams and Mathieu have "mutual interest" in reaching a deal. It makes sense in a few ways. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is considered one of the brightest minds in the game and Los Angeles' defense was as important as its powerhouse offense in winning the Super Bowl last year. But for all the talent the defensive front boasted, the back end was wear. The Ramshad to bring back Eric Weddle for their playoff run, and while that worked out, he isn't coming back again and they need to boost their depth desperately.
The question is if the money is right? Mathieu could be talked into a one-year prove-it deal at this point, but he knows as well as anybody how quickly things can change with one wrong step on the field and he won't sign a long-term deal worth less than he believes he's worth. The Rams are well-positioned to defend their title but can't give Mathieu much. If he wants a shot to win a championship while setting himself up for a potentially more robust market this time next year, the Rams make sense.
The Eagles have been a popular landing spot for Mathieu because they still need secondary help and safety has been a weak spot for years. He'd immediately become a fan favorite in Philadelphia with his fiery personality and the NFC East, as it has been for years, is open for the taking. Nobody should think the Eagles are contenders but they have a good chance to play meaningful football next January. They were also linked to Mathieu last week.
Philly has enough money left ($15 million in cap room) to give the Honey Badger a decent-sized contract, thereby addressing a weak part of the roster and adding a leader to the locker room. But that's been true for a few weeks. Why haven't the Eagles done it yet? It's likely because what Mathieu is asking is more than what the Eagles are willing to give. Mathieu is good but not quite a game-changer who can cover for multiple defensive weaknesses. If the price is right, it makes sense, but the price hasn't been right to this point.
New Orleans Saints
If Mathieu decides to throw finances to the wind and take his chances next offseason with a one-year deal on the cheap, this makes all the sense in the world. He's a legend in the Bayou after his years spent as a cornerstone player at LSU. New Orleans lost its starting safety in Malcolm Jenkins to retirement. Despite Sean Payton's retirement, the Saints have shown no interest in a rebuild. Mathieu would be a helpful addition, and even if he wasn't, he'd receive the adoration of the fans each week.
The problem, of course, is the money. The Saints notoriously never have any cap space. It's both miraculous and confounding that they manage to enter every new season barely under the cap. Re-signing Jameis Winston probably took all their cap wizardry tricks. Of course, we say that every time, but this late in the offseason it'll be tough to move enough pieces around to give Mathieu a market-value contract. But if the safety wants to come home, it's an easy decision for both sides.