Why Tyrann Mathieu’s deal is good for the NFL as well as the Arizona Cardinals
The positive story of a player handling adversity and the Arizona Cardinals taking a chance comes to a culmination this offseason.
Reports came out yesterday about the status of contract negotiations between the agent for Tyrann Mathieu and the Arizona Cardinals. The Honey Badger is in the final year of his rookie deal that both priced for the third round pick that he was, and the risk the team took on him. Kicked out of his senior year of college because of repeated drug offenses and an arrest, Mathieu just needed a chance.
The Arizona Cardinals took that chance, and it has paid dividends since the day number 32 took the field for the first time.
While listed as a safety, Mathieu is anything but. Much like teammate Deon Bucannon, Mathieu routinely plays out of position and a roving force in the backfield. His stellar rookie campaign was derailed by an ACL injury and his MVP caliber season in 2015 was done in the same way with a non-contact injury suffered against the Eagles.
NFL Networks Ian Rappaport reports that the Arizona Cardinals are deep in negotiations with Mathieu to make him the highest paid safety in the league, rivaling that of Earl Thomas in Seattle, putting the deal north of $10m a year. That’s a lot of money, but you pay for the product on the field.
Mathieu has outplayed every element of his rookie deal, mainly because of where he was picked and why he fell so far. Many saw him as a risk too big to take, but they also saw a freak athlete. The Arizona Cardinals listened to their own players and instincts and took him.
But why is this the best for the NFL?
Headlines are dominated in the NFL by the negative, the past two seasons have been dominated by Deflate-gate, who has the authority to discipline players. Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, etc. even the Arizona Cardinals first round draft pick, Robert Nkemdiche comes into the conversation.
While out of sight, out of mind comes into play for some of those players, there just isn’t enough positive stories in sports these days. This is an exception to that rule.
This is a comeback story, a story about a player who nearly lost it all and is coming back to really show the world, and the 31 other teams that passed on him, some of them three times, that they lost out on a quality player, because they weren’t able to look past mistakes and offer a culture and a chance to a troubled kid.
This is good for the NFL because it breaks the news cycle mold, just when the league needs the goodwill published the most.
Mathieu’s contract is likely to include some clauses about injury (two ACL injuries in four seasons in the league is cause for some concern) and it may include some drug testing beyond the league mandated, but all of that could just be standard boiler plate material now. I don’t think Tyrann and the Cardinals expect anything less than 110% and several championships.
The next few weeks should be very interesting to see where both Mathieu and the Cardinals value each other, but all indications are that the deal will be done, and we’ll see fans wearing number 32 jerseys for many years to come.