Did the Chiefs make a mistake in throwing the gun at Justin Reid?

Former Kansas City Chiefs safety chief Tyrann Mathieu was a huge loss for the Chiefs, but how much considering he was replaced by Justin Reid?

Before Chiefs fans began mourning the loss of Tyreek Hill, Kansas City already lost another great to the chaos of the 2022 NFL offseason: Tyrann Mathieu.

Mathieu was a potential franchise tag, with fans wondering how the Chiefs would include him in future rosters and what lucrative contract the 29-year-old safety could sign.

Then the franchise tag period passed and then the Chiefs signed Justin Reid instead. Mathieu was forced to move on and rumors circulated linking him to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints until Mathieu finally visited the Saints in April. Nevertheless, he remains unsigned, one of the biggest travesties of the offseason.

Though Mathieu sometimes took his frustration out on Chiefs fans, his heart clearly stays with KC. Mathieu admitted to the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell that the surprise signing of Reid left him “depressed” and “heartbroken”.

Worse, it wasn’t a question of money for Mathieu: He also admitted he would have signed the same deal the Chiefs offered Reid, only the Chiefs never offered it to Mathieu.

“To be honest, if they had offered me Justin Reid’s deal, obviously I would have tried to negotiate, but if they had drawn their line in the sand there, I probably would have taken it,” Mathieu said. “I probably would have taken it. The agents will do their thing, but at the end of the day it’s the player’s decision whether to sign it or not.”

But Reid and Mathieu are in different places in their careers. Mathieu expected to end his career at KC, and the $10.5 million a year would have been a significant pay cut from the $14 million a year Mathieu made in his first three seasons with the Chiefs. Reid is only 25 years old, which makes it easier to get him on a cheaper contract and keep him longer.

It’s a tough question to answer as Reid is clearly a high-profile safety who has shown plenty of promise and playmaking with the Texans. But even Reid admits: There’s no one like Tyrant Mathieu.

“A copy is never worth as much as the original,” Reid told ESPN. “There will never, ever, ever be another bully Mathieu through Kansas City.”

“But I can bring the best Justin Reid possible to Kansas City,” Reid continued. “I want to play to my strengths. I want to play as I am.”

Was it worth signing Justin Reid over Tyrant Mathieu?

Economically, it makes sense that the Chiefs would sign Reid over Mathieu. While Mathieu is a uniquely great player with the intuition that gives safeties the edge, Reid is younger and less expensive. Making Patrick Mahomes one of the highest-paid players inevitably comes at a price, which means other veteran players who earn richer deals won’t get them. Paying a $23.63 million franchise tag for Mathieu wasn’t realistic — that’s about two years out of Reid’s contract for one-year Mathieu — and the Chiefs don’t currently have that kind of cap. If Mathieu wanted to retire in Kansas City, only so much could be renegotiated, as Mahomes and Kelce and others would still have to be paid at some point.

But this is When Mathieu got the wealthier veteran contract he deserved. Mathieu now says he would have accepted Reid’s offer, but that’s still the case with hindsight. Even if Mathieu played for the same amount of money, it’s unlikely he could play at the elite level for as long as Reid is expected to. Troy Polamalu retired at 33; Kam Chancellor retired at 30. Aside from the countless examples of NFL safeties retiring in their early 30s, there is data from Pro Football Reference showing that safeties are more likely to retire early than other defensive positions.

Did the Chiefs sign Reid before talking to Mathieu and seeing what was possible with him? Definitely. But have the Chiefs signed a younger, cheaper player who looks up to Mathieu and hopes to embody what he learned from him in Houston? Most likely. Did the Chiefs make a mistake in throwing the gun at Justin Reid?

John Verrall

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