On Thursday afternoon, the Texans introduced four new players, all signed in free agency, to the assembled media (and via their web stream, to their fan base), and despite the additions of four new names all signed by a new general manager, those Texan fans with their default set at "glass half empty" yawned and said "same old Texans."
The four man free agency class, all of whom were examples of prudent spending by GM Brian Gaine, didn't have much sizzle, and with oodles of cap space coming into this offseason, Texan fans were hoping — hell, BEGGING — for a splash.
Then, out of nowhere, on Friday night, the splash came down. As first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the Texans agreed to a one year deal with former Cardinals safety, Tyrann Mathieu:
Former Cardinals’ safety Tyrann Mathieu reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Houston Texans, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2018
The deal is worth up to $7 million, with a base salary of $2 million, a signing bonus of $4.5 million, and up to $500,000 in per game bonuses for when Mathieu is on the active roster. Coming into the process, Mathieu had made it clear that money would not be the motivating favor. Instead, the degree to which he felt his new team was committed to winning and in position to win would rule the day. This, according to one report, was true, at least with respect to his now former team:
Source confirmed #AZcardinals willing to pay Mathieu $8 million in 18. He Declined and took possible $7 million from Texans.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) March 17, 2018
Mathieu has had about as unique a career arc as any player over the last several years. After being invited to New York as a Heisman finalist in 2011, Mathieu was kicked out of LSU before the 2012 season for repeated violations of team rules. He declared for the 2013 draft, and fell to the third round due to the off the field issues that dogged him in college. The Cardinals drafted him, and he clearly had put his issues behind him, as he immediately became a fixture in their secondary, peaking at first team All Pro in 2015.
In late 2015, though, Mathieu suffered a torn ACL, ending his season. However, that did not stop the Cardinals from giving him a five year, $62.5 million contract before the 2016 season. In 2016, he was still solid, but not spectacular, and he missed a handful of games with a shoulder injury. In 2017, Mathieu played in all 16 games, but again was good, not great.
A week or so ago, the Cardinals came to Mathieu to ask him to take a pay cut. He was scheduled to make a little less than $6 million in 2018, and nearly $11 million in each of 2019 and 2020. Mathieu refused, the Cardinals cut him, and the Texans were reportedly immediately interested. J.J. Watt was most definitely interested, as he tweeted Mathieu right after his release, and Watt was clearly giddy on social media after the signing was announced last night:
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I think to say that it's surprising Mathieu is working on a modest, one year deal for 2018 would be an understatement. This is a huge win for Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien, and sends a message to the league that the Texans are a place to go for star players. The presence of Deshaun Watson cannot be underestimated, as well. It will be fascinating to learn more about exactly how this recruitment went down in the coming weeks.
For now, the Texans have what should be the best safety they've fielded in franchise history, and they have him in a contract year, which should be mean high motivation and lots of forced turnovers. 2018 just became fun again.
The Honey Badger is a Houston Texan.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.