The Cincinnati Bengals need a playmaker in the secondary and safety Tyrann Mathieu would be a great piece.
News broke on Wednesday morning that the Arizona Cardinals will be releasing safety Tyrann Mathieu. With the amount of talent that the Cardinals have at the safety position, it made sense to move on from the veteran. Arizona had until today to decide whether they wanted to pick up the option for Mathieu guaranteeing the ball-hawking safety $19 million over the next two seasons.
He played just two years of his five years, $62.5 million extension. Mathieu was expected to make $14.1 in 2018 with the Cardinals but instead, they save $4.8 million by releasing the veteran safety. In his five years with Arizona, Mathieu has racked up 11 interceptions, 41 passes defended, and 4 forced fumbles while also collecting 281 tackles.
After being asked to take a pay cut in 2018, Mathieu and the Cardinals failed to reach an agreement resulting in the release. The 25-year-old safety mentioned that he was not willing to take a pay cut to NFL reporter Gregg Rosenthal.
"“There’s many ways you could restructure a contract instead of just taking money out of my pocket,” Mathieu said at the time. “Taking money out of my pocket, I don’t like how that feels.”"
The Cincinnati Bengals are in need of playmakers that can help turn over the ball in 2018. In 2017, the Bengals ranked 27th in the league in turnovers forced with only 14. The defense needs a player with the ability to cause turnovers to improve in 2018. Like formerly mentioned in the article about drafting safety Derwin James, the Bengals need a versatile safety that can attack from anywhere on the field.
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Mathieu can line up anywhere on the field making him a hybrid safety. He can play the roles of a safety, down in the box as a linebacker, or blitz from the sides to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. The one-time All-Pro safety came up third in tackles for his former team in 2017. His presence would make the need for safety and linebacker less being able to play either position.
Players like Mathieu rarely hit the free agent market and with cornerbacks already being grabbed on day one of free agency, it makes his demand even higher. While the Pro Bowler won’t come cheap, he would add immediate impact to both the run and passing game for the Bengals defense. There are few safeties as versatile as Mathieu as they are a rare bread, so the Bengals would need to make a move fast and be willing to spend some money.
Areas the team could cut to help pay for a big contract would be wide receiver Brandon LaFell who would free up $4 million and safety George Iloka who would save the team $4.4 million. Those two contracts alone could pay for $8 million of Mathieu’s first year with the team. There are ways to make room for a playmaker like this but will the team be willing to make such a bold move with contracts for defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carlos Dunlap coming up next offseason?