Written by: Joshua A. Guelda – Staff Writing Intern (@JAGbaggage)
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the deal is worth a total of $62.5 million over five years, with $40 million in guaranteed money. As it stands, Mathieu becomes the highest paid safety and the sixth highest paid cornerback in the league.
His $15.5 million signing bonus is considerably more than the guarantees Vikings’ safety Harrison Smith and Seahawks’ safety Earl Thomas received at signing.
Mathieu emerged as one of the most dynamic defensive playmakers throughout his breakout 2015 campaign. He compiled 89 tackles, 17 passes defended, five interceptions and a touchdown before his season was interrupted by his second torn ACL since 2013. Despite the injury, Pro Football Focus registered Mathieu as the league’s top cornerback in 2015 with a remarkable 91.6 grading.
So what makes the 24-year-old worth every penny?
1. Mathieu possesses the potential to change the course of a game at any moment, on any play and without any warning. His nickname, the “Honey Badger” accurately describes his on-field approach, being that he takes what he wants exactly when he wants it. His natural instinct and nose for the football make him a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators.
2. Besides Mathieu’s relentless playmaking prowess, his best ability might be his unique versatility. He can play anywhere in the secondary. Whether it’s at free safety, strong safety, slot corner, or even on the perimeter against the opponent’s top receiving threat. The Cardinals have also incorporated him into multiple blitz packages. Moving Mathieu closer to the line of scrimmage allows him easy access to quarterbacks, as well as a reliable run stopper. In this case, Mathieu’s contract seems to be relatively low(er) risk, with high(er) reward.
He’s a special talent with the capability of becoming even better. Being only 24, his ceiling remains high provided there are no more serious injuries. Mathieu missed out on a major payday with his first contract due to personal issues which surrounded him at LSU. It’s safe to say, he has been rewarded for his personal and professional success this time around.
Ultimately, getting Mathieu re-signed was a top priority for Arizona before next offseason. Although he’s dealt with a couple of major knee surgeries, replacing him through the draft or free agency would have been impossible. The Cardinals understood an invaluable, defensive weapon like Tyrann Mathieu comes with a high price tag. Surely, they will be leaning on him this season if they are to be a serious Super Bowl contender.