Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his interception against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu officially agreed to a new deal on Wednesday:

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday that Mathieu's new deal with the Cardinals is for five years at about $12 million per season. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the deal is worth a total of $62.5 million with $40 million in guaranteed money. The full guaranteed money when Mathieu signs will be $21.25 million, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. 

Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 reported Mathieu's deal will make him the NFL's sixth highest-paid cornerback and the league's highest-paid safety.

Mathieu took to Twitter to comment on the extension:

Mathieu emerged as one of the league's most dynamic defensive playmakers during his breakout 2015 campaign. He registered 89 combined tackles, 17 passes defended, five interceptions and a touchdown before his season came to an early end due to his second torn ACL since 2013.

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What makes the 24-year-old LSU product so valuable beyond his game-changing potential is his versatility. He can play anywhere in the secondary—either safety spot, slot corner or even on the perimeter against an opponent's top receiving weapon—and is also comfortable moving closer to the line of scrimmage to play the run.

Though third-rounders like Mathieu rarely become Pro Bowl-caliber players, it's not nearly as surprising with the Arizona defensive back because everybody knew about his upside.

The defender was given the nickname "Honey Badger" during his time at LSU thanks to his aggressive style of play. It didn't take a longtime scout to see he possessed first-round—and possibly even top-10—talent, but off-field concerns hurt his draft stock.

Mathieu made the necessary personal changes, and it's allowed him to transform from a player with a lot of untapped potential into a defensive cornerstone. Pro Football Focus rated him as the best cornerback in the NFL last season.

It put him in position to receive a lucrative contract extension with free agency possibly looming after the 2016 campaign. Yet he told Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official site in June it was about finding the right deal, not the first deal or the biggest deal:

I want what is best for my team, and I want what's best for me personally. I don't want to be in a situation where it's bad for both sides. I don't think that's fair to the Cardinals, to my teammates. The only way you win in this league is to get good players around you. You can have two or three people eating up the whole salary cap.

I think it's important for me to recognize that, to understand that side of it as well. But to also understand the type of player I am.

Ultimately, getting Mathieu re-signed was a top priority for Arizona before next offseason. Even though he's dealt with a couple of major injury setbacks, trying to replace him through free agency or the draft would have been nearly impossible.

He's a special talent with the potential to become even better with a few more years of experience and no additional health woes. He missed out on a major payday with his first contract, but he got rewarded for his personal and professional success this time around.

   

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