Tyrann Mathieu

AFC Rumors: Broncos, Crennel, Rhule, Henry

Mike Munchak is once again a popular head coaching candidate, with at least four teams interested in his services. But we heard last night that Munchak has strong interest in the Broncos‘ opening, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) reports that Munchak has emerged as the early favorite for that position. Helping the Broncos’ cause is the fact that Munchak has family, including a granddaughter, in the Denver area.

Now for more rumors and rumblings from the AFC:

  • The Broncos are blocking other teams from interviewing senior personnel adviser Gary Kubiak for offensive coordinator jobs, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Kubiak wants to remain in Denver anyway, but he has expressed interest in returning to the sidelines as an OC, and the Broncos would like him to serve in that role under whomever they hire as their next head coach (assuming that person is comfortable with such an arrangement). The Bengals and Falcons had requested interviews.
  • Texans free agents-to-be Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu want to be back in Houston next year, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. There has been no word on whether the Texans will move to re-sign Jackson, but the team does want Mathieu back, as we learned yesterday.
  • Romeo Crennel is expected to return as the Texans‘ DC in 2019, per head coach Bill O’Brien (via Wilson on Twitter).
  • The Jets have interest in interviewing Baylor head coach Matt Rhule for their own HC vacancy, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com suggests that Gang Green will get an interview with Rhule (Twitter link). The team is in Dallas interviewing Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard today, and Albert Breer of SI.com believes New York brass could interview Rhule while they’re in Texas (Dallas is about 90 minutes from Waco).
  • Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers should be able to land a lucrative free agent deal this offseason, but since he is not a prototypical speed-rushing DE, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes it is difficult to pin down what his value will be on the open market. Reiss suggests Flowers could return to New England after testing the free agent waters.
  • The Chargers will remain without tight end Hunter Henry for today’s playoff bout in Baltimore, but if LA wins today, Rapoport says that Henry will be activated tomorrow in the hopes of suiting up against New England next week.
  • Rapoport reiterates that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will not be back in Baltimore next season, but Flacco (unsurprisingly) wants to continue his playing career, and Rapoport suggests that he will get an opportunity as a starter (video link). The only real question is whether Baltimore will be able to trade him or if the club will be forced to cut him.
  • In addition to Flacco, the Ravens will need to decide what to do with impending free agent C.J. Mosley in the offseason. It would probably be unwise to sink too much money into an inside linebacker who struggles in coverage, but Mosley’s leadership abilities for a defense that could be losing a number of key veterans will certainly be a factor in contract negotiations, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

Texans Eyeing Clowney, Mathieu Deals

Although their playoff opener is not going too well thus far, the Texans entered Saturday with clear offseason goals. They want both Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu to be part of their 2019 team.

While re-signing both long-term may be difficult, that is the path Houston wants to take, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). Both defenders are set for free agency come March.

Talk of a Clowney extension cooled off considerably in 2018, when the standout defender was battling another knee injury. But he has played well this season, making his third straight Pro Bowl. The Texans want to, at the very least, keep Clowney around for 2019 via the franchise tag. Rapoport calls that move a “very viable option.” This has been rumored for a bit now, even though it is not the Texans’ preferred option.

This would force the Texans to re-sign Mathieu long-term, if they want to keep him around. That’s a scenario the former All-Pro safety is interested in unfolding. With the safety market taking odd turns this year, Mathieu had to settle for a one-year commitment. It’s likely he will be able to do better in 2019.

Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, Lamarcus Joyner, Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may hit the market, or at least a few members of this group. That would make for another interesting offseason involving safeties. As for Clowney, his asking price surely spiked when the deals for Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack were finalized.

Houston is projected to possess $72MM-plus in cap space, which is in the top 10. The Texans already extended Benardrick McKinney and will have Deshaun Watson becoming extension-eligible after this season. And after J.J. Watt reclaimed his place on the All-Pro first team, the Texans will probably have to carve out room for another major extension for the three-time defensive player of the year.

Extension Talks Between Texans, Tyrann Mathieu Likely

In an offseason where the top safeties were oddly ignored, the Texans gave Tyrann Mathieu $7MM on a one-year deal. The mid-level investment’s worked out thus far, and it might not be the last Mathieu contract with the franchise.

Mathieu and the Texans have not begun discussions on an extension, but it’s likely they will, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

The fifth-year safety is not expected to barrel toward free agency without hearing the Texans’ best pitch to keep him off the market, Wilson notes, adding that Mathieu’s expected to give the Texans the first crack at an offer.

Mathieu is “most definitely” interested in signing to stay in Houston, he said this week. But it will surely take more than $7MM per year to make that happen.

In a strange offseason for safeties, Mathieu received the most in per-year dollars. Of the other top safeties, only Morgan Burnett (three years, $14MM) signed for more than $4MM per year. Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid signed one-year deals. They figure to be back on the market in 2019 in hopes of cashing in, which sets up another interesting offseason at this position.

It may be a crowded marketplace, however. If Mathieu reaches free agency, he may join Earl Thomas, Lamarcus Joyner, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins. Not all of these names are likely to make it to free agency, but some will. With much bigger names en route to UFA status, the safety position figures to be valued more appropriately compared to what happened this year.

Mathieu was once the NFL’s highest-paid safety, but the Cardinals cut bait on that $12.5MM-per-year extension after two seasons. But if he continues on course, the 26-year-old standout should be on track to pursue a deal in that ballpark again.

Houston is projected to possess plenty of cap space ($73MM-plus) and would be able to discuss a Mathieu deal even after applying the franchise tag to Jadeveon Clowney. Being used more as a pure safety and not a slot defender like he was in Arizona, Mathieu has 61 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions in 10 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Notes: Clowney, Watson, Mathieu

Jadeveon Clowney did not practice during the first set of Texans OTAs last week because of a surgery he underwent in the offseason, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery after the season but remains sidelined as Houston’s offseason program commences, per Wilson, who adds the fifth-year edge defender recently sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. While the additional medical counsel and the lengthy time off could be deemed a cause for concern, Wilson reports the outlook for Clowney is positive here. An extension for the former No. 1 overall pick has been on the Texans’ agenda for a bit now, and the team is eyeing what promises to be a landmark contract being finalized before the regular season. It doesn’t look as though this knee issue will cloud that. Although, no deal is imminent just yet.

Here’s the latest out of Houston, as its NBA franchise prepares for a rather significant game.

  • As expected, Deshaun Watson participated in part of the Texans’ OTAs. The second-year quarterback took part in individual drills, per Bill O’Brien (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). However, Watson also participated in some of the seven-on-seven portion of the workout. Pointing out Watson has not experienced any setbacks this offseason, McClain notes the Texans’ starter is expected to be 100 percent by the time training camp begins. “My knee feels well,” Watson said. “I’m comfortable to be able to throw and get the timing down with the receivers. There’s really no timeline on ACLs. It’s just dependent on how that person feels. I feel good.”
  • Tyrann Mathieu isn’t lobbying for the Texans to use him the way the Cardinals did. The Texans are, for now, planning on keeping their newly signed defensive back at the safety position exclusively. And Romeo Crennel‘s plan for Mathieu helped attract the free agent safety to Houston, he said. This comes after Mathieu spent plenty of time in the slot with the Cards. “Yeah, it definitely helps me slow things down,” Mathieu said of the safety-only role, via HoustonTexans.com. “Just focusing on one position, trying to be the best at that, rather than just being good at everything. So, I think it’s important for me to just embrace it like I have been and just trying to continue to grow as a safety.”

Extra Points: Cards, Texans, Colts, Redskins

While the NFL world this week learned Cardinals second-round rookie Christian Kirk was arrested for disorderly conduct and property damage in February, prosecutors may not have a strong case against the former Texas A&M wideout. The main witness cited by police was lying on a bench and not watching while a van window was allegedly broken by Kirk and his friends, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. That same witness claims he saw Kirk and a friend throwing rocks at other cars, but no damage was reported on any other vehicle. The case against Kirk is still pending, but Arizona knew about the arrest before making him the 47th overall pick in the draft. It’s unlikely Kirk ever faces any legal ramifications from the incident, while the league has avoided suspending players involved in pre-NFL off-field trouble.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Tyrann Mathieu was famously versatile during five seasons with the Cardinals, but the Texans — Mathieu’s new football home — have a more fixed set of objectives for the Honey Badger, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. “We talked about that when we were speaking to him during the process,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. “We told him that we really do value – as you know – we value versatility, but we also understand that a guy needs to have basically one home. He needs to understand and master that one home, which is safety for Tyrann. Then, in different packages that are played less of the time, maybe he does something else.” Mathieu inked a one-year, $7MM deal with Houston earlier this year, and that figure has surprisingly stood as the highest annual value for any non-franchised free agent safety contract this offseason.
  • Free agent quarterback Cody Keith is working out for the Colts on Wednesday, and previously auditioned for the Chargers and Rams, per Rapoport (Twitter link). A former four-star recruit, Keith was limited by injuries during his collegiate career at East Carolina, and was only attempted just 11 passes before moving to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Since that time, Keith has spent time in the Canadian Football League and in the Spring League, working on Johnny Manziel‘s team in the latter venture.
  • The Redskins announced that they’ve hired Brian Lafemina as their new president of business operations and chief operating officer. While the hiring doesn’t involve football operations on its face, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk speculates that Lafemina’s addition could be a precursor the Washington parting ways with much-maligned team president Bruce Allen. However, the Redskins’ press release states Allen will continue in his current role, while John Keim of ESPN.com hears Twitter link) Lafemina will focus mainly on stadium development.
  • Speaking of business operations, new Panthers owner David Tepper may look to hire former Browns president and CFO Mike Keenan, tweets Rapoport. Keenan, who was team president in Cleveland from 2008-10, has recently worked in consulting, per Rapoport, and working with clubs in multiple sports. While Tepper may make changes on the business end once he takes over in Carolina, he’s not expected to revamp the Panthers’ football staff.

Texans Rumors: Watson, Martin, Mathieu

Despite tearing an ACL in November, Deshaun Watson looks like he’ll have some involvement in the Texans‘ offseason program. The one-time offensive rookie of the year favorite is ahead of schedule in his recovery process, just as Bill O’Brien anticipated he would be coming into the offseason program, James Palmer of NFL.com reports (video link). Watson will be throwing some during the offseason. Although Watson is currently working out in a brace on the injured knee, Palmer notes the second-year quarterback may not have to wear a brace once he returns to game action. The former national championship-winning passer will not participate in the team portions of the Texans’ OTAs but will throw during the seven-on-seven and passing portions of the workouts, per Palmer.

Here’s the latest out of Houston.

  • The Texans are considering moving center Nick Martin to guard, Palmer reports. The third-year player started in 14 Texans games at center last season, his first as a healthy NFLer after he missed all of his would-be rookie year due to injury. Having reached an agreement with another former Chiefs offensive lineman in Zach Fulton, it’s possible the Texans could slide Martin to guard and Fulton to center — where he played at times in Kansas City. O’Brien said as many as four new starters could be set to block for Watson this coming season. Senio Kelemete and Seantrel Henderson are now in the fold as well. Houston’s highest-paid lineman remains Jeff Allen, who has not lived up to the $7MM-per-year deal he signed in 2016. Martin’s brother, Zack, of course, is arguably the best guard in the game.
  • Tyrann Mathieu may be gradually pushed into a versatile position with his new team. Palmer notes the Texans plan to initially just play him at safety but do want him working at cornerback and as a blitzer. This hybrid job description helped Mathieu to an All-Pro perch in 2015 and a then-record safety contract before another injury sidetracked him and eventually re-routed him to Houston.
  • Joe Webb will make $915K in base salary and will carry a $720K cap figure this season, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The wide receiver/quarterback received a $90K signing bonus.
  • Defensive lineman Christian Covington has been fully cleared after his torn biceps injury in October ended his 2017 season, per Wilson. Covington started two games last season and played in seven, doing so after making five starts in 2016.
  • The Texans released right tackle Derek Newton earlier on Thursday and did so with a failed physical designation, Wilson tweets. Newton had not played since October 2016, when he sustained two severe knee injuries on one play.

Contract Details: Mathieu, Pamphile, Watson, Weeden

Some details on recent free agent deals (all links via Twitter):

NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero also has signing bonus/guarantee details on players who signed one-year deals: TE Levine Toilolo $400K (Lions), LB Pernell McPhee $350K (Redskins), QB Brandon Weeden $90K (Texans), CB Leon Hall $45K (Raiders).

Extra Points: Boldin, Burfict, Mathieu, Saints

Anquan Boldin may not be done playing in the NFL, as he said today that he hasn’t made a decision on the future of his career, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Boldin signed a one-year deal with the Bills last August, but retired just two weeks later. The 37-year-old expressed some interest in returning during the 2017 season, but the Bills had no intention of releasing him. Buffalo has now done so, as it cut Boldin from the reserve/retired list this week. For what it’s worth, the Patriots and Boldin reportedly had mutual interest last September.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is expected to argue that his four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension should be overturned given that he was using prescription medications to recover from injury after he’d already been ruled out for the season, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. If Burfict’s ban is upheld, the remaining $11.3MM guarantee on his contract will void, meaning Cincinnati could potentially move on without any financial consequences. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Burfict is hoping an arcane section of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement will save him, but the league is unlikely to overturn his suspension.
  • Former All Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu had an offer to return to the Cardinals at an $8MM salary, tweets Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. The 25-year-old Mathieu declined the overture, and instead signed with the Texans for one year and $7MM. the Mathieu was a Pro Bowler and one of the NFL’s best defensive backs as recently as 2015, but he’s struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness over the past two seasons. Last year, Mathieu managed to start all 16 games, but only graded as the league’s No. 61 cornerback among 121 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Although the Saints received a salary cap credit as a result of their Nick Fairley grievance, the grievance itself has not been settled, per Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (Twitter link). That $3MM credit was only related to Fairley’s signing bonus, so the Saints are presumably trying to recoup a portion of Fairley’s base salary after he was forced to sit out the 2017 campaign with a heart condition. For what it’s worth, Fairley hopes to play during the upcoming season, but it’s difficult to imagine any team medically clearing him.
  • The Steelers curiously signed restricted free agent punter Jordan Berry to a one-year extension with a similar salary to the RFA tender, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com has explained the club’s rationale. Berry, a native Australian, would have been considered unemployed if he returned to his home country without an RFA tender in place, meaning his work authorization paperwork could have taken extra time. Given that he’s getting married this year, Berry didn’t want to deal with any confusion, so Pittsburgh obliged him by giving him a one-year deal, the value of which has sent been altered to match the original round tender figure of $1.907MM.

Tyrann Mathieu Signs With Texans

Former Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu wasn’t on the open market long. Shortly after being released by his drafting team, the 2015 First Team All-Pro is reportedly signing with the Texans, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets

Schefter also reports the deal is a one-year contract worth $7MM (Twitter link).

The addition is a big one for the Texans defense, which finished last in the NFL in scoring defense in 2017. The signing, coupled with the return of J.J. Watt, is sure to help the unit return to one of the top squads in the league.

Had Mathieu remained on Arizona’s roster past the day he was released, he would have had a large chunk of his contract guaranteed. Unwilling to carry his $14.1MM cap hit in 2018, the Cardinals released him in order to free up resources for free agency. The 25-year-old defender said he was willing to restructure his deal but balked at the notion of the pay cut.

Mathieu, inked a five-year, $62.5MM extension with the Cardinals back in 2016. That deal came after an ACL tear ended his 2015 campaign early. In 2016, he suited up for just ten games. Last year, he played a full 16-game slate, but didn’t look like his usual self.

When PFR looked at Houston’s top needs entering free agency, No. 2 on the list was bolster the secondary. There is no question this move checks that off. In 2015, the safety earned All-Pro honors after registering five interceptions and 89 tackles. If he can return to that form, landing Matthieu will be a huge get for a burgeoning Texans squad.

[RELATED: Texans Depth Chart]

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Top 25 Remaining NFL Free Agents

Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders. 

2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.

3. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson may have lost some luster following the trade that sent him from the Jets to the Seahawks, but he among the best defensive tackles currently available. With plenty of cap space remaining, Richardson should find a lucrative deal, though it probably won’t come from Seattle. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will fetch about $9MM/year.

4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.

5. Josh Sitton, G (Bears): With Andrew Norwell off of the board, Sitton stands as the best guard on the market. He’s missed six games over the last two years, but he has four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit. He’s set to meet with the Dolphins.

6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]

7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inking Aaron Colvin.

8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.

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