The Pittsburgh Steelers arguably have two large outstanding questions that they presumably hope to answer before the start of the 2022 NFL Draft later this month. First, they would surely want a definitive answer about Stephon Tuitt’s status for this year before they potentially start drafting linemen. Second, they want to know who is starting at strong safety, because they seem set on it being a veteran.
We have talked about Tyrann Mathieu a lot lately, especially after the nine-year veteran confirmed interest on the Steelers’ part. He is a free agent for the fourth time in his career, as he prepares to turn 30 years old, looking for a new team, but he has been taking his time.
The overarching question has been, what are his market expectations? He said that he’s not looking to be the league’s highest-paid safety, but there was also a report that he wasn’t open to taking any kind of discount to play for his hometown Saints. His most recent comments perhaps best reflect what his current contract hopes are.
Talking with Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star, Mathieu admitted that he was “depressed” and “heartbroken” after the Chiefs decided to turn in another direction at safety, signing the young Justin Reid to a three-year contract worth $31.5 million. And then he said this:
“To be honest, if they would’ve offered me Justin Reid’s deal, obviously I would’ve tried to negotiate, but if that’s where they drew their line in the sand, I probably would’ve took it”, he said. “I probably would’ve took it”.
So, there you have it. He “probably” would have begrudgingly taken a deal worth $10.5 million per season from the Chiefs to stay with the team that he wanted to play for. But going back to the Chiefs is no longer an option.
So which teams out there are willing to pay him an annual salary north of eight figures? That’s the question. I would imagine that if there were one, he would have signed by now, so it’s certainly possible that he’s realizing his market isn’t where he thought it would be.
Mathieu expressed genuine grief over not staying in Kansas City, talking about how difficult it will be to move his children. He even said that he doesn’t know that his wife understands how hard he personally took Kansas City deciding to go in another direction.
He also talked about playing through much of that season understanding that it may well be his last in Kansas City, and pretty much dreading moving on, even losing some of the passion in his play because of it. He really found a home there, and that’s not easy to find again.
And I can’t imagine that doing his price tag any favors. Based on what he said in this interview, I’m inclined to assume that he doesn’t have any interest in accepting any contract offers that come in below $10 million per season.
He’s a 10-year veteran. He knows football. He can afford to wait until after the draft if he has to. If one of the safety-needy teams comes out of that without a starter, then maybe his price bumps up to where he would like it to be.