When the Cardinals selected Tyrann Mathieu 69th overall in the 2013 NFL draft, they felt the reward outweighed the risks. However picking Mathieu was very risky at 69.
Mathieu’s off-field issues have been well documented throughout his career, and the issues were serious enough that Mathieu, who some felt was a first round talent, fell to the third round.
Even after drafting him, the Cardinals had another issue to deal with, Mathieu’s first NFL contract. Under the new NFL collective bargaining agreement the 69th overall pick is slated to have a four year deal for around three million dollars with a signing bonus around $650,000. However, Mathieu was no ordinary 3rd round selection.
It had been reported and speculated that the Cardinals would push for Mathieu to sign a contract with absolutely no guaranteed money. Some thought it was a good idea, others thought that it was unfair to Mathieu and just thought the Cardinals were being cheap.
However, when the contract was signed and the details came out, it was clear that Mathieu was being compensated fairly. Mathieu signed a four-year deal worth a little over $3 million, just as he was slated to where he was drafted. The Cardinals also gave him $662,500 dollars in bonus money, but that is where the Cardinals saved themselves with Mathieu’s deal.
Rather than give Mathieu his full signing bonus up front, the Cardinals spread the money out over the length of the contract. Mathieu agreed to up to ten drug tests monthly and will receive his guaranteed money as a roster bonus if he remains on the roster through his entire four year deal.
That makes Mathieu’s contract completely fair for both sides. Mathieu will be completely compensated for the slot that he was drafted in as long as he can stay out of trouble, but the Cardinals were able to give him some motivation to stay clean, and gave themselves a way out if he is unable to do so.
The Cardinals clearly took a risk with Mathieu, but Steve Keim did a great job of making sure that the Cardinals protected themselves, while also making sure that Mathieu was fairly compensated in the process.