The Arizona Cardinals took a chance by selecting Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of April's draft, and now the former LSU cornerback is going to have to prove himself not only on the field but off it as well.
Mathieu signed his rookie contract on Thursday, which will pay him $3 million over four years, per USA Today's Mike Garafolo. That figure is $100,000 more than the No. 69 pick got in 2012, a sign that Arizona has faith in a young man so few did heading into the draft.
However, Mathieu's contract comes with provisions that will help the Cardinals should he ever face off-the-field problems.
According to NFL.com's Dan Hanzus, Mathieu received just $265,000 initially—less than any player in five seasons. The rest of his signing bonus will be paid out over the next three seasons, but only if his drug-related issues are put in the past.
That latter portion is most notable because Mathieu will be subject to plenty of tests over his NFL career. As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports, the "Honey Badger" will enter the NFL's drug-testing program, making him subject to up to 10 drug tests per month:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
As I said on Total Access: Tyrann Mathieu enters @NFL in league's drug test program, per source. Subject to as many as 10 tests per month5/23/2013, 11:13:26 PM
It's important to note that there is no specific language in Mathieu's contract with the Cardinals regarding his drug testing. According to Rapoport, Mathieu has been open to drug testing, and entering the NFL's program avoids any team-mandated testing:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
Tyrann Mathieu has welcomed all drug-testing. No additional language in his contract for it. There doesn't have to be. He's in the program5/23/2013, 11:16:53 PM
There is also no guarantee that Mathieu will face all 10 tests. The NFL keeps information private about how many times each player in its drug-testing program has been tested, so it's unlikely we'll find out unless he releases that number publicly.
However, Thursday's news likely provides relief to members of the Cardinals organization worried about whether Mathieu can stick with the team long term.
A burgeoning star at LSU, Mathieu's collegiate experience was marred by off-the-field problems. He was kicked off of the Tigers in 2012 for reportedly failing multiple drug tests. Though Mathieu tried working his way back into the good graces of coach Les Miles by entering a rehabilitation facility, a drug arrest in October essentially put the final nail in his coffin in Baton Rouge.
USA Today's Jarrett Bell reported in April that Mathieu failed at least 10 drug tests at LSU.
While Mathieu maintains those issues are in the past, he'll now get a chance to prove it. The NFL won't give him 10 different chances to fail a drug test the way LSU reportedly did. But the league will almost certainly give him 10 tests—perhaps all in one month.