Jamal Adams got his payday, resetting the safety market by $2 million per year on his four-year, $70 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks. Heading into next year, there will be a bevy of safeties waiting in line to get paid.
The chief among those back-end playmakers resides in Kansas City: Tyrann Mathieu.
The 29-year-old, back-to-back All-Pro safety enters his third and final season with the Chiefs, slated to make a base salary of $14.55 million.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday that the team will do its darndest to keep the defensive leader in K.C. for years to come. The issue is the financial hurdles it will take to get a deal done.
"We've had a chance to talk to Tyrann and his representation, and I think it's a little bit difficult with the landscape right now of having two cap-shortened offseason and where we are in regards to our offseason projections," Veach said. "But as we've discussed with Tyrann and his crew, it's one of those situations that where we are now will certainly not be where we are once the season ends, and once we correct some of the things when you have extensions, conversations, trades, (players) move on -- every team is certainly in a different position (with) what their books say than (what) they will be in the offseason.
"And we like to think that we're going to find a way to get this done. And he knows we love him, and we know he wants to be here. And right now, for him, and for us, I think it's just a timing thing. But there's not a guy in this league I respect as much as him for the way he goes about his business. And, you know, listen, a lot of these guys, and a lot of these teams -- I think we saw the franchise tag period come and go, and no one got done. And there have been a couple of deals, but a lot of these bigger deals haven't been done for the same reason. Different players handle it in a different way. And just like you'd expect from Tyrann, just complete class. I mean, the guy is special. We love him. And we're certainly going to work our tail off to keep him here."
The big issue for the Chiefs getting a Mathieu deal done is the multiple big contracts already on the books for 2022 when the salary cap isn't yet expected to make a massive leap (that's more likely to come in 2023). The Chiefs already have four players set to count for $20-plus million next year on the cap -- Patrick Mahomes ($35.8 million), Chris Jones ($29.4 million), Frank Clark ($26.3 million), and Tyreek Hill ($20.7 million) -- and Joe Thuney is next in line at $17.8 million.
It will take a lot of cap work to finagle a Mathieu deal, depending on how badly he wants to threaten Adams for the highest-paid safety title as he enters his age-30 offseason.
The bonus for K.C. is that all parties seem willing to consider creative ideas to keep Mathieu in K.C. The safety has said on the record he doesn't want to leave after already spending parts of his career in Arizona and Houston. The front office wants to keep the team leader. And Mahomes has gone to bat for the safety.
It's not impossible to add another big contract to the pile -- it's one reason they left a lot of wiggle room to rework Mahomes' deal when it was done last summer -- but it will take some cap gymnastics from Veach and the Chiefs.
If K.C. can't pay Mathieu, there will surely be another club in free agency willing to pay to import a playmaker and team leader who can help transform a defense.
The veteran is among a slew of safeties slated to hit the market next offseason. For a position that has been slow to see its market grow, we could be in for some massive paydays come 2022 free agency.