Eagles: Adding Tyrann Mathieu could elevate Gannon’s defense to elite status

On Thursday, it was reported by NFL insider Ian Rapoport that free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu had a virtual meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. According to the report, “Philly has emerged as a prime location for one of the top free agents.”

Mathieu has been making his rounds this week, meeting with his hometown Saints earlier this week. The Honey Badger doesn’t seem to be in any rush to sign at this point. “This time around, it’s not about being the highest-paid safety,” Mathieu said when speaking with The Advocate. “I want my family to be comfortable. I think I’ve worked hard enough and long enough in this league to be able to have that. I want to play for a team that has a chance to win a championship, but outside of that, I want my kids and my family to be happy and be safe.”

With Mathieu’s market value lower than expected, we shouldn’t be surprised that Howie Roseman swooped in. He’s a bargain shopper. Now, Howie should do everything in his power to make Mathieu to Philly a reality.

It goes without saying that he would be a substantial upgrade at the safety position for the Eagles. Mathieu has earned first-team All-Pro honors two times over the past three years while only missing one game. In 2021, Mathieu finished the year with 76 combined tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 3 fumbles recoveries, and 1 sack. His playmaking ability is something the Eagles could really use on the backend of their defense.

Darius Slay provided several big plays during his 2021 campaign, but he was the only player in the secondary doing it on a consistent basis. The Eagles starting safety duo of Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod combined for 3 interceptions in 2021, Mathieu had 3 by himself.

While Mathieu certainly provides some playmaking ability, he’s also just a stout coverage safety. Last season, he posted a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 76.4, good for 14th-best among 92 qualifying safeties. He allowed a completion percentage of 69.2 and a passer rating of 88.1 when targeted in 2021.

Jonathan Gannon’s defense proved to be a very DB-friendly scheme in 2021. His cover 2 scheme really allows his corners and safeties to play off one another, leading to more interceptions on the backend. At 29 years old, this may be the perfect system for Mathieu at this point in his career. Whether he’s playing closer to the line of scrimmage or in a two-high look, Mathieu should be able to flex his aggressive style routinely playing under Gannon.

The Eagles have already made a handful of moves to help solidify their defense heading into 2022. Haason Reddick and Kyzir White should help shore up the front-seven while also providing some much needed pass rush help. Mathieu could be the piece that brings it all together with the secondary.

As of right now, safety may be the most glaring hole facing the Eagles defense. The front office may still opt to use one of their later picks on a safety to develop, but Mathieu could come in and immediately make a positive impact on Gannon’s group.

At his expected reduced price, Mathieu is absolutely worth signing.

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