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Arizona Cardinals, Tyrann Mathieu agree to five-year, $62.5M deal

The Arizona Cardinals have given defensive back Tyrann Mathieu a big contract despite his knee problems. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
The Arizona Cardinals have given defensive back Tyrann Mathieu a big contract despite his knee problems. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
By Bob Baum Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals and All-Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu agreed to a five-year, $62.5 million contract extension, with $40 million guaranteed, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been officially announced.

The big contract comes despite major injuries to both of Mathieu’s knees in his first three NFL seasons. He has yet to play a full NFL season.

Mathieu, known as the “Honey Badger” to his multitude of fans, sent a tweet Tuesday that said simply, “blessed.”

The agreement is further evidence of his remarkable rise after being out of football for a season following his dismissal from LSU for marijuana-related offenses.

Mathieu was considered a risk when the Cardinals chose him in the third round (69th overall) in the 2013 draft, but he quickly developed into one of the team’s top players and evolved into a vocal leader with no off-field issues.

Mathieu’s first contract had $800,000 guaranteed with a multitude of drug tests, but much of the money was spread over four seasons because of concerns about his earlier problems.

The new contract would be the largest for a safety in NFL history. Although he is listed as a safety and earned All-Pro honors at that position, Mathieu had more plays at cornerback last season. Basically, he’s a do-everything defensive back.

It was unclear whether the contract had contingencies if Mathieu suffers further serious injuries. The guarantee may be unprecedented for a young player who had undergone two knee surgeries in such a short period of time.

Mathieu tore his left ACL and LCL on a brutal hit against St. Louis in December of his rookie season and tore his right ACL in a noncontact injury following an interception late in a one-sided victory at Philadelphia last Dec. 20. The Cardinals’ defense was noticeably less effect after losing Mathieu, who brings an emotional edge to his game as well as his considerable physical skills and instincts.

Coach Bruce Arians’ voice cracked with emotion when he revealed to reporters the extent of Mathieu’s injury the day after the Eagles game.

When Mathieu returned in his second season, he had difficulty adjusting to playing with a knee brace.

The second injury was far less serious, but Mathieu opened training camp last week on the physically unable to perform list.

Mathieu was to receive a base salary of $1.4 million this season. The $265,000 roster bonus that was part of his rookie deal was spread over four years.

He has become one the most charismatic and accessible players on the team. His emotional approach to the game was on display in the “All or Nothing” video series by NFL Films on Amazon that documented Arizona’s entire 2015 season.

A dynamic defensive back at LSU, Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore in the 2011 season, the first defensive back so honored since Charles Woodson won the award in 1997. But he was dismissed from his college team in August 2012 and was arrested on marijuana-related charges that December.

He came to the NFL under that cloud of suspicion but readily talked about his problems and peppered his many tweets with inspirational thoughts and sayings.

Mathieu also became a voice for social justice, decrying the violence in his hometown of New Orleans.

Several of his Arizona teammates exulted in news of the contracts.

“When I say my boy his own money,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said on Twitter, “I mean the boy has his own MONEY.”

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