Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander plans to sign a four-year, $54 million deal that includes $27 million guaranteed with the San Francisco 49ers, according to ESPN and multiple reports.
Before Alexander sustained a torn ACL on Oct. 21 last season, the Buccaneers were willing to offer him as much as $10 million annually, a source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.
But the feeling at the time was that Alexander, 24, who led the NFL with 108 solo tackles in 2016, was seeking closer to Luke Kuechly’s annual salary of $12.4 million and an agreement could not be reached. Now Alexander has topped Kuechly with a deal that averages $13.5 million per season.
After re-signing left tackle Donovan Smith last week, the Bucs had less than $3.5 million in salary cap space.
Even after the injury, the Bucs expressed a desire to retain Alexander, whom general manager Jason Licht called the “heartbeat of the defense” — but at the right price.
Sources say Alexander’s recovery is right on schedule. He has been under the care of Dr. James Andrews and has resumed weightlifting — including squatting — and is now jogging.
Driven to be “one of the best safeties in this league,” Mathieu, for the second consecutive season, played in all 16 games and tied his career high with 89 tackles. He also had three sacks, a fumble recovery and two interceptions.
Before joining the Texans, Mathieu ended three of his first five NFL seasons on injured reserve, including tearing his left ACL and LCL in 2013 and his right ACL in 2015, when he was a first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl. In 2017, he played in all 16 games for the first time since entering the NFL.
The Chiefs are intent on finding a safety to pair with Eric Berry, who missed most of last season with a mysterious foot injury. Berry carries a massive salary-cap hit, but the Chiefs missed out on Landon Collins in free agency and appear content to keep him on the roster.
If he’s healthy, Berry and Mathieu would form one of the AFC’s best safety duos.
Anything would be an upgrade on last season, when the Chiefs allowed a league-worst 425.6 yards and 35.3 points per game. The defense ultimately let down Kansas City when it mattered most, failing to get off the field in overtime in an AFC title game loss to the New England Patriots.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was fired within days, the Chiefs quickly hired Spagnuolo, and now they are beginning to piece together what they hope is a vastly improved unit before next season.
“One great thing about Steve is he is going to put players in positions to make plays and I don’t think he is going to be pigeonholed into any one idea or concept,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said earlier this month. “We have a great coaching staff. We certainly have some talent on our roster now and hopefully we will add some more here soon.”