Fresh off of what many consider to be one of the strongest draft classes in years, Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles were immediately linked to veteran Safety Tyrann Mathieu…again. The Honey Badger had been waiting patiently for a team to snap him up, and the Eagles seemed like a logical fit after refusing to draft a safety, but it was the Saints who ultimately paid up. Contrary to what you’ll see on Twitter, this isn’t a bad thing.
It’s easy to understand why fans would be frustrated. Safety was one of the team’s biggest needs going into the NFL Draft and it went untouched. It’s not the first time this has happened, however, and I doubt it will be the last. The main thing to note here is that in Jonathan Gannon’s scheme, the safety position is not as vital as it was under Jim Schwartz.
Why passing on Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t matter
The Wide-nine scheme relied on a rampant pass-rush and a dominant run defense with plenty of blitzing. This naturally left a lot of open space over the middle and made it too easy for QB’s to lure safeties down and bite on crossing routes. We saw this time and time again as corners were routinely left humiliated with no help and despite making the correct decisions, were burned. This didn’t matter though because the pass-rush were able to get home, put up eye-popping sack numbers, and terrorize QB’s.
Fast forward to 2022 and it’s the inverse. Gannon refused to blitz regularly in 2021 and it’s no coincidence that we saw huge years from Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, and even Steven Nelson. Marcus Epps graded out as PFF’s best run-defending safety and had a missed-tackle percentage of just 6.5%, 3% lower than Mathieu’s 2021 percentage…which also happened to be the second-best of his career. While the sack total dropped off a cliff, the turnover total spiked and DB production followed suit very nicely.
Mathieu no longer fits the bill
As the Eagles changed on the field in 2021, they also changed away from it. Howie’s new prototype for free-agents no longer involved aging veterans and instead applied the same NFL Draft-like focus. Is Hasson Reddick ‘getting up there in age’?. How about Kyzir White? It’s clear that the Eagles want to build their sustainable future rather than by that impact for the short-term.
The Eagles have just traded for A.J Brown and paid him $100m. Going all-in on a veteran safety makes little to no sense. Mathieu walked away from Kansas City because he wanted a deserved payday. If the Eagles met those demands, he’d likely be on a short-term deal costing them a lot of money and for what? If the Eagles were closer to making a run and were one player away, then absolutely…but they’re not. The next two years are going to be all about seeing just how close this team is and whether or not Jalen Hurts is going to be the guy to push them over the edge now that he’s in a position that’s literally been tailored to his every want and need.
Tyrann Mathieu is a great player, but after such a stellar draft weekend that saw the team land A.J Brown as the cherry on the cake, there’s no need to drown it in sauce. Just enjoy the dessert for what it is, put trust in a GM who has otherwise ticked every box this offseason, and let the rest pan out.
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