The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to terms with Tyrann Mathieu on Monday afternoon. Within the deal, General Manger Brett Veach is showing his hand.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots celebrating on the Arrowhead Stadium turf. Patrick Mahomes, helpless, on the sideline.
For Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach, that’s how the 2018 season ended. A coin toss and subsequently a lousy defense losing the AFC Championship Game, even with 31 second-half points from Mahomes and his cohorts.
In that moment, the dye was cast. The Chiefs were going to radically alter their defense.
The decisions have been swift. Kansas City fired Bob Sutton and replaced him with Steve Spagnuolo. Last week, the Chiefs placed the franchise tag on outside linebacker Dee Ford before releasing longtime star Justin Houston on Sunday afternoon.
Then, on the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period for free agency, Veach struck. Kansas City agreed to terms with Tyrann Mathieu on a three-year, $42 million deal, bringing him in to play alongside former All-Pro Eric Berry. While there remains much to do, the Chiefs landed the top target on their free-agent board.
Mathieu, 26, gives Spagnuolo the ultimate chess piece in his secondary. Between his time with the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans, the Honey Badger has shown the ability to be above-average at free safety, strong safety, slot corner and boundary corner. Additionally, Mathieu racked up three sacks in 2018 and has seven in his regular-season career. In Spagnuolo’s blitz-heavy defense, the Chiefs have a weapon in all facets of their scheme.
While Kansas City understands there are still defensive holes to plug — outside linebacker and cornerback among them — the draft is likely where those areas are significantly addressed. Should the rumors of Ford being eventually dealt come to fruition, the Chiefs could dive back into free agency for big names, but that’s unlikely. With a $15.4 million cap charge on the books with Ford’s tag, Kansas City won’t be making any additionally major signings.
If Ford is dealt, Kansas City would have the flexibility to make such a move, but many of the impact deals will be off the board at that juncture.
Regardless, the acquisition of Mathieu — which can be official on Wednesday with the new league year — showcases an awareness from the Chiefs on multiple levels. For starters, they recognize their window is right now. Kansas City has MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes on a rookie deal for the next two seasons. If there’s ever a time to load up and go for proverbial broke, it’s now.
Second, the defense was a mess last year, finishing 31st overall. While there’s long been a belief within NFL circles that you build on strengths to mask weaknesses, spending lavishly on the offense in Kansas City would be asinine. There is only one football, and trying to share it with someone not named Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams or Sammy Watkins would be absurd.
Veach resisted the temptation of making a Madden move, instead shoring up a secondary that was routinely roasted in 2018. With Mathieu in tow, the Chiefs can now turn their attention to minor signings and the draft.
Last season ended with the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs devastated in their own building. The Mathieu signing is a significant step in having a replay of that game, with the ending being far different.