Teams across the NFL have been focused on adding players to their rosters over the past few days, but as players and money get added some are still getting subtracted. Perhaps the biggest subtraction came from the Arizona Cardinals, who released safety Tyrann Mathieu. Jay Glazer popped in to let the world know of the release before fading back to UFC broadcasts and the set of Ballers, I guess.
Cardinals have informed the Tyrann Mathieau The Honey Badger they are releasing him— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) March 14, 2018
An ending to the Mathieu-Arizona relationship had been on the wall over the past week. While doing media at the NFL Network, Mathieu said his agent had been in talks with the Cardinals and the team had asked him to take a paycut — an idea Mathieu did not appear to take well.
Tyrann Mathieu, here at @NFLNetwork Thursday, said he and agent spoke with Cardinals Thursday. They asked him to take a pay cut.— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) March 8, 2018
Mathieu did not sound too amenable to a pay cut. Open to some type of restructure … “But taking money out of my pocket. I don't like how that feels.”— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) March 9, 2018
Mathieu was set to count for $14.1 million on the cap in 2018 in just the second year of a five-year/$62.5 million deal. He might not be a fit for new head coach Steve Wilks, admittedly a crazy development for a team that hired a defensive minded head coach.
Naturally, the New York Giants popped up as a possible landing spot for the safety because of the relationship with current defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who was Arizona’s defensive coordinator during the previous three seasons.
Why it would make sense
Obviously the scheme fit and the relationship is there, but a match with the Giants goes even deeper than that. There’s a hole at both safety and slot defender — roles the recently released Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had filled. The Giants need help at both safety and cornerback and Mathieu would be able to help in both of those areas. He also played 99 percent of Arizona’s defensive snaps in 2017.
Mathieu is still an excellent defender against both the run and the pass. He was first-team in All-Pro in 2015 before he tore his ACL. He’s a versatile piece in a defense that can play at any level and cover any position. If there’s anyone in the league who is going to use him correctly, it’s going to be James Bettcher.
He’s instantly the biggest instant impact defender to hit the market and players like this do not come free very often. Pairing him with Landon Collins would create one of if not the best back end of a defense in the league. Adding Janoris Jenkins to that would also give the Giants one of the best overall secondaries and could also take away the need to invest more significant resources at linebacker because of the space those players could cover.
Why it wouldn’t make sense
If there’s a hesitation on Mathieu it’s going to be the price and the injury history. The torn ACL hampered Mathieu’s play a bit when he returned in 2016 and he wasn’t back to his 2015 level in 2017, but he continued to improve in the latter part of the season and he ended on a strong note while playing almost every snap.
Mathieu was unwilling to take a paycut because he’s likely to hit the price he was making if he was able to get a new contract elsewhere. It wouldn’t be surprising to have that be the case. Almost every team in the league should and will be interested in adding Mathieu to its roster.
The Giants have recently added $10 million to the 2018 cap with the Alec Ogletree trade and just committed over $15 million per year to left tackle Nate Solder. With the cap hits of Eli Manning, Jason-Pierre Paul, and Olivier Vernon already on the books, eventually there’s not going to be enough money to sign all these top of the market players, but there are also ways to work around the cap and make all this money work out. If the Giants want to pay Mathieu, they’ll figure out a way.