KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tyrann Mathieu practically pleaded over the past few months to remain with the Kansas City Chiefs once his contract expired this year. He took every chance to say publicly how much he liked the city and team, his teammates and coaches.
At one point, Mathieu even suggested he would take less money on a new contract so that he could stay. He was moved to the verge of tears after the AFC Championship Game loss to the Cincinnati Bengals when talking about possibly playing for the last time with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs finally weighed in with their thoughts on Monday at the start of free agency, doing so with their actions but not their words. The statement about Mathieu was louder and more insightful than anything they possibly could have said.
The Chiefs went out and found Mathieu’s replacement in safety Justin Reid, formerly of the Houston Texans. By giving him a three-year contract worth more than $31 million, the Chiefs seem confident Reid can be everything Mathieu was. He’s also just 25, so he could be heading into his best seasons.
Moving on from Mathieu is shock to the system for anyone following the Chiefs. He’s as much a part of the Mount Rushmore of their current era as quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce or receiver Tyreek Hill.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Replacing Mathieu, who turns 30 in May, with Reid fits general manager Brett Veach’s pattern of big-dollar free-agent signings. The Chiefs throw their significant free-agent money at younger players theoretically on the rise and not older players who have already been at the top.
Since Veach was promoted to GM in 2017, the Chiefs’ major free-agent signings or trade acquisitions had one thing in common when they arrived in Kansas City: their age. Receiver Sammy Watkins was 24 when he joined the Chiefs. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens was 25, Mathieu himself was 26. Defensive end Frank Clark was 25, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. 24. Joe Thuney was 28 but as an offensive linemen, he can be expected to play well into his 30s.
Veach’s philosophy extends to those he’s signed as well as to the in-house players he’s signed to contract extensions. Mahomes was 24, Chris Jones 25, Hill 25. Kelce is the outlier here since he was 30 when he signed his latest extension, but he was a safe bet to play well at least early in that contract, and he has.
Mathieu saw this coming. He suggested in many social media posts, sometimes in vague terms but sometimes very clearly, that the Chiefs wouldn’t want him back at the end of his contract.
It’s hard to argue with Veach’s philosophy to bet the Chiefs’ big free-agent money on younger players heading into what should be the prime of their careers. That’s what Reid appears to be doing.
There’s another side to that, one that at times can be difficult to accept. The Chiefs will often move on without some of their stars, even those who desperately would like to keep playing in Kansas City.