After months of negotiation, the Cardinals and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu agreed today on the terms of a five-year, $62.5MM extension that contains $40MM guaranteed. Of course, that $40MM figure is unlikely to refer to full guarantees, as the current leader in that metric among safeties — the Patriots’ Devin McCourty — only secured $22MM fully guaranteed. Still, the average annual value of the deal indicates that it’s possibly market-shifting, and it engendered quite a bit of reaction. Let’s take a look at some of the responses to Mathieu’s brand new contract:
- The Cardinals have apparently worked injury protection into the deal, presumably adding language that would protect the club in the event that Mathieu suffers another major injury, according to Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910 (Twitter link). Mathieu, of course, has torn an ACL in two of his first three seasons in the league, so it’s understandable that Arizona wants to guard itself.
- Mathieu’s extension pays him $12.5MM annually, and that figure — which is between the top of the cornerback and safety markets — makes sense because Matheiu shifts between both positions, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Mathieu’s versatility, to be sure, makes his deal a bit difficult to evaluate since he spends much of his time in the slot.
- Now that he’s earning that $12.5MM annual salary, Mathieu has surpassed the Vikings’ Harrison Smith to become the NFL’s highest-paid safety, and Mathieu’s average is also $1.7MM more than Eric Berry will make if he signs his franchise tag with the Chiefs, details Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (all Twitter links), who adds that the Cardinals are placing a lot of faith in Mathieu considering his aforementioned injury history.
- The Cardinals value Mathieu because he’s able to target specific offensive weapons, as Matt Bowen of ESPN Insider writes (subscription required). Mathieu can “dictate matchups,” according to Bowen, lining up against either a slot receiver or a tight end, or instead playing near the line to stop the run or blitz off the edge.
- Risk is built into Mathieu’s new deal because of his lengthy injury past, but Arizona isn’t afraid to take a gamble, as evidenced by the fact that it drafted Mathieu in the first place, opine Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. Mathieu is perhaps the msot valuable piece on a Cardinals defense that includes All Pro Patrick Peterson, and the club suffered immensely after Mathieu went down late last season.