Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu told PFT Live earlier this year that his contract talks with the team would be “kind of a wrestling match.” The wrestling match is now over, and both sides have won.
For Mathieu, the player who plunged to round three due to off-field issues in 2013 and who has suffered a pair of torn ACLs in three NFL seasons cashed in enormously, with a five-year, $62.5 million contract.
Reported as a five-year contract with a $12.5 million average, it’s actually a five-year extension. Still, under the new-money analysis that teams and agents routinely apply to the assessment of these deals, he has become the highest-paid safety by a significant margin, eclipsing the Harrison Smith’s multi-year deal by $2.25 million per year. (At $10.8 million on a one-year franchise tag, Eric Berry of the Chiefs will be the highest-paid safety — if he signs it before the Chiefs rescind it.)
It puts him right in the middle of the current top of the safety and cornerback market ($15 million). Which is an appropriate compromise, given that he plays both positions.
For the Cardinals, the victory comes from securing the long-term services of a player who has quickly become one of the best defensive players in the league, and a true leader in the locker room. Depending on the structure (and all that has emerged to date is that the deal has $40 million guaranteed, which doesn’t say much), the deal also may give them the ability to find a way out of the contract without major financial exposure if the latest ACL tear ultimately limits what Mathieu can do.
Chances are the Cardinals already have seen enough to know that it won’t.