This off-season has been tough for the New Orleans Saints as Sean Payton announced his resignation from the team. They also lost star tackle Terron Armstead and safety Marcus Williams via free agency. The worst thing to happen to the Saints and the rest of the NFC South Division was when Tom Brady announced he was coming out of retirement to re-join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After missing the NFL Playoffs for the first time since 2016, the New Orleans Saints needed to make a big splash in the rest of the off-season through the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency to keep up with the Buccaneers. The Saints made significant moves in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 28th. The Saints drafted two immediate offensive starters in the first round in Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave and Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning.
After two solid picks in the first round, they picked up a solid cornerback in Tennessee's Alontae Taylor, followed by two defenders in the fifth and sixth rounds. The Saints pressed for more elite contributors who could make an instant contribution as they felt they had a chance to compete for another Super Bowl before their window closes. Despite two huge additions on offense and solid depth on defense through the Draft, the Saints are still behind their rivals in Tampa Bay as to what they could do this upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. They needed more help overall.
The Saints got that help as they re-opened the discussion of signing three-time first-team All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. The two parties had high interest in Mathieu joining the Saints, but a deal was not made before they shifted their focus on the Draft. Mathieu kept his options open for a few teams, including the Saints and the Dallas Cowboys. It was clear that Mathieu was looking for a team that could compete for a Super Bowl like he was for the Kansas City Chiefs.
When the Saints made key Draft picks on all main position needs, excluding the safety, it was clear New Orleans was determined to land Mathieu. After several days of discussing a contract, Mathieu signed a three-year; $33 million deal this Wednesday. The Saints bring in an instant starter at strong safety and a proven defensive leader at 29-years old. Mathieu joins a team that feels that it can leapfrog the Buccaneers for the NFC South Divisional title.
Last season, the Saints' defense ranked 14th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (224.8) and fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (93.5). Mathieu has been one of the biggest reasons why the defense of the Kansas City Chiefs got more efficient significantly. The Saints finished the 2021 season as the fourth-ranked scoring defense (19.7 points allowed per game) thanks to the coaching and development of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, now the Saints' head coach.
Mathieu is one of the most talented and versatile defenders in the NFL. Last season for the Chiefs, Mathieu accounted for 76 total tackles, 60 solo tackles, two tackles for loss, six pass breakups, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. His ability to play consistent zone coverage, scout the quarterback, attack the ball carrier, and make efficient tackles on run plays makes him a reliable defense asset. His vocal leadership and motivation toward his teammates make him an even better team captain than most of the other defenders in the league.
Mathieu spent his high school and collegiate career in the state of Louisiana. In 2011 with the LSU Tigers, Mathieu was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American, and the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award for the best defensive player. After three solid years in Kansas City, Mathieu will be playing for his fourth team in his NFL career. The Saints welcomed Mathieu back to his home state as Mathieu calls his arrival a dream come true. Now the Saints, led by Mathieu, will look to make their fans' dreams come true by giving them a second Super Bowl title in franchise history.