The NFL never sleeps. On post-draft Monday morning, according to multiple reports, the New Orleans Saints are expected to sign All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. Financial terms of the impending contract have not yet been disclosed but Mathieu has been extremely patient in regards to choosing his next destination. Monday was always expected to kickstart additional movement in the unrestricted free agency market, because any player signed past 4:00 p.m. ET no longer counts towards the compensatory draft pick formula. It’s especially crucial for the Saints, who are due to earn a plethora of comp picks in 2023 due to the high-priced losses of Marcus Williams and Terron Armstead in unrestricted free agency.
It’s an excellent signing for a Saints defense that was already expected to field one of the most productive units in the league in 2022. New Orleans’ defense ranked in the top-10 in several statistical categories throughout the 2021 season, including total yards allowed (318.2) per contest, rushing yards allowed per game (93.5), points allowed (19.7) per contest and total team interceptions (18), while earning an impressive plus-seven in the turnover differential department. New Orleans’ offseason dealings should now allow them to build upon last season’s defensive success. New Head Coach Dennis Allen is a defensive-minded leader that will preach the continuation of what he achieved as the team’s defensive coordinator last season and Mathieu certainly moves the needle forward.
Mathieu now joins a star-studded defensive group that managed to hold most crucial pieces in place despite facing some salary cap-related difficulties earlier this offseason. The loss of Williams, who signed a five-year contract worth $70 million with the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, dealt an undeniable blow, but General Manager Mickey Loomis has rebounded rather impressively since then. Loomis first responded to Williams’ departure by signing former New York Jets free safety Marcus Maye to a fair-priced three-year contract worth $22 million. The addition of Mathieu’s do-it-all skill set qualifies as the ultimate cherry on top.
The soon-to-be-30-year-old former LSU standout remains in the prime of his career and is capable of lining up at essentially every defensive playmaking position. It gives the Saints’ defensive backfield even more versatility, as Mathieu joining forces with elite match-up weapon Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a literal nightmare for opposing offenses. Having Maye, Mathieu and Johnson move around while Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo lock down their respective sides of the field may give the Saints the best secondary in all of professional football.
Since taking the league by storm as a third-round selection out of LSU in the 2013 NFL Draft, Mathieu has routinely showcased the abilities to play in single-high coverage, to come down into the box and impact the run game, and to line up in the nickel and cover opposing tight ends and slot receivers with terrific effectiveness. Mathieu’s versatility certainly appeals to Allen’s brilliant defensive mind. Expect Allen and Co-Defensive Coordinators Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard to get extremely creative and multiple going forward.
Mathieu now brings his talents to his hometown of New Orleans. There’s certainly a heartwarming aspect to consider here. Mathieu was born and raised in New Orleans, attending St. Augustine High School locally. Mathieu’s local legend only grew considerably once he decided to accept a scholarship to attend LSU, where he would enjoy an exceptional two seasons before being dismissed from the program due to repeated off-field issues. Mathieu has successfully cleaned up his act since then and witnessing him return to Louisiana to play for the Saints in 2022 helps bring an impressive career full circle.
The Saints’ draft largely focused on the offensive side of the ball. They maneuvered up-and-down the board and spent two-first round selections on offense by drafting wide receiver Chris Olave and offensive tackle Trevor Penning. Olave and Penning could immediately slot into New Orleans’ starting lineup going forward. Olave should address the need for a pass-catching weapon alongside the returning Michael Thomas and Penning may be viewed as Armstead’s replacement, either on his vacant left side or at right tackle should Ryan Ramczyk move to the blindside. TDN’s national scout Keith Sanchez was thoroughly impressed by the Saints’ draft-haul, assigning their draft a letter grade of “A-minus.” The addition of Mathieu makes their draft that much more impressive, as the Saints now exit the week with two immediate offensive starters and a game-changing defensive veteran.
- May 18, 2022
- May 18, 2022