The Green Bay Packers made sense on paper as a great fit for versatile defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. A player who was vocal about his desire to land in a place “where football matters,” we at Acme Packing Company described in detail why Green Bay could be that place for him.
Furthermore, we examined the fact that the Packers could likely afford Mathieu with minimal changes to their existing roster, given the cap space the team still has. So when news broke that Mathieu had signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Houston Texans, Packers fans were understandably confused and frustrated that the Packers were not Mathieu’s landing spot. Financially, the Packers could have given Mathieu more money for 2018 and likely could have offered a longer-term contract as well.
However, upon further examination, Mathieu’s reasons indeed appear to be less about money and more about fit — both from a football perspective and in terms of geographic location.
You see, Mathieu was born in New Orleans. He played his high school football in Louisiana and attended LSU for college. It’s a safe bet that the Saints would have been his first choice, but since the team has less than $3 million in salary cap space at present, they would not have been able to make a play for Mathieu.
But what team is just a stone’s throw away from the state of Louisiana and had $45 million in cap room? That would be the Houston Texans.
From the player’s financial perspective, this contract is a little bit silly. Mathieu was due more money in 2018 on his contract with the Arizona Cardinals before they released him; even though he has had multiple injuries over the past few years, Mathieu will be just 26 years old this season and easily could have demanded a multi-year contract.
Instead, it appears that Mathieu wanted to spend the upcoming season closer to home.
Of course, the Texans’ defense — which features stars like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney — is a factor in this decision as well. Houston is an up-and-coming team, thanks in large part to that defense and to quarterback DeShaun Watson, and from a football perspective it is a decent fit.
But for Mathieu, his landing spot for this season was about more than the almighty dollar, and it was about more than just finding the place where football is the most important thing. His proximity to home appears to have been a defining factor in his decision as well.