At 7-4, the Arizona Cardinals are one of the more pleasant surprises in the NFC, and the Bruce Arians era is off to a rosy start.
However, the Cardinals are going to have some major decisions to make in the offseason, not the least of which is how many dump trucks full of money it's going to take to sign cornerback Patrick Peterson to a long-term extension.
Two? Maybe three?
The number may have just gone up. As Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports reports, Peterson fired agent Patrick Lawlor on Nov. 25, in advance of offseason contract negotiations that Getlin speculates could net Peterson more than $50 million in guaranteed money and the title of NFL's highest-paid defensive player.
A new agent just before a new deal? The "hometown discount" just left town.
Peterson is an excellent, young defensive back, but is he really worthy of being the league's highest-paid player on defense?
Well, if Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who isn't exactly a stranger to tooting his own horn, has anything to say about it, the answer is apparently yes...sort of.
From Terry Blount of ESPN:
Sherman believes he is the best corner in the NFL, and has said so on several occasions. But he said Tuesday that Peterson has him beat in one respect.
“He’s a way better athlete than I am,” Sherman said. “He moves better and he’s faster. He has so much speed that it allows him to play a little differently than I do. I have to play straight technical football. He gets to play a little looser because he can recover in a flash and get back in a play.”
Peterson has certainly established an impressive resume in a short time.
In 2011, the former LSU star set rookie records for punt return yardage (699) and punt return touchdowns (four) while intercepting a pair of passes. In 2012, Peterson ratcheted his number of picks up to seven. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.
Those are all solid numbers, but are they really $50 million guaranteed numbers?
Well, since the easiest (and most sensible) thing to do is compare apples to apples, let's compare Peterson's 2013 season to some other cornerbacks.
|Cornerback Comparison, 2013|
|Player||'13 Salary||PFF Rank||Cov. Rank||TDPA|
|Courtesy of Spotrac and Pro Football Focus.|
As you can see from this information from Spotrac and Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Peterson's overall performance and coverage skills compare favorably with Brandon Carr of the Dallas Cowboys and Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns.
Other than an alarmingly high number of touchdown passes allowed, Peterson's numbers aren't much worse than those of Darrelle Revis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Revis currently co-holds the title of the league's highest-paid defensive player with Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams.
Add in the fact that Peterson is still only 23, a cornerstone on defense who changes field position with his mere presence in the return game, and that he's even been used on offense a bit this year, and that mega deal sounds less and less out of whack.
But wait, there's more!
By all accounts, Peterson is a model citizen and already a team leader in only his third NFL season. Former LSU position coach Ron Cooper raved about Peterson's work ethic and maturity when speaking with Yahoo! Sports' Eric Adelson:
Patrick is a complete, total, rounded football player. He knew where he was headed, and he knew at a young age. He had a total plan of preparation. Whatever his dad and mom did, it needs to be written in a book.
In a day when a veteran player castigated a young teammate to the extent that the youngster walked away from the team, Peterson took former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu under his wing. It was Peterson who vouched for the talented but troubled Mathieu before the Redbirds risked a third-round pick on him in April's draft.
That move paid off handsomely.
Peterson is also a fan favorite and one of the most marketable stars on the team. Not that NFL teams care about things like ticket sales and money.
It's understandable for anyone, from general manager to fan, to get a little lightheaded at the thought of paying any non-quarterback more than $15 million per season. The deals are inherently risky, and the contract can potentially hamstring a franchise for years.
However, Patrick Peterson hasn't given any indication that he's trending in a direction other than up in his career. When you take into account the totality of the effect he has on the Arizona Cardinals, there's really only one conclusion to draw.
Peterson is worth whatever it takes to keep him.
Better make that four dump trucks.