The aftermath of a long NFL season commences the ritual of spinning forward and wondering which players will come and go in the offseason.
With the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, one critical free agent is star safety Tyrann Mathieu. The 29-year-old said after the game that he hopes to remain in K.C.
"I hope so. Ever since I came here, I just try to be the right kind of teammate," Mathieu said after the loss. "I try to play my part. It's always that feeling that you could make more plays for your team but I'm hoping it works out. I don't have any control over that. I feel like everything that is within my control, I tried my best to handle it and do it with a smile. I love this team. I love this locker room. There are a lot of coaches I have great relationships with. I am hoping."
Mathieu signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Chiefs in 2019, averaging $14 million per season. Sides attempted to get an extension done before the 2021 season but could not consummate the agreement. Kansas City brass, however, has said consistently they hope to bring Mathieu back.
The do-it-all safety has been a linchpin of Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Mathieu's versatility, smarts, and playmaking allow K.C. to be creative on the back end and disguise coverages. Mathieu's early exit in the AFC Divisional Round win over Buffalo due to a concussion underscored his importance, as the Chiefs were scrambling to slow Josh Allen.
If Mathieu leaves K.C., it would be a big hole to fill.
The Chiefs fell short of making three straight Super Bowl trips in Mathieu's run in K.C. After a tumultuous start to his career, which included overcoming injuries in Arizona, the veteran was grateful for the playoff run, even if it didn't end how he wanted.
"I think the immature person in me would probably say we failed," Mathieu said. "I think the bigger person in me realizes that these things aren't always possible. For us to start the season the way we did and for us to claw our way back out of last place, put ourselves in first place, give this city home games where they can come out and be a factor. I am more so proud of the guys I work with the coaches that I work with. For me, that is where the gratefulness comes into play. You have to be grateful for certain experiences, certain challenges. Things that you know can bring out the best in you. In the future, we have a lot of motivation. I know there are a lot of guys in that locker room that are going to take this offseason personal to get better. We still feel like we are the best team in the NFL. The best team doesn't always win. It's the team that plays well and makes the plays that day. I am just extremely proud to come to work with these guys."
The question is now whether Mathieu will continue to work in Kansas City or move on to the fourth club of his career.