The Arizona Cardinals signed free safety Tyrann Mathieu to a five-year contract extension following a career season for the third-year player, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal is worth a total of $62.5 million, with $40 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The deal makes Mathieu the highest-paid safety in the NFL. Mathieu had one year remaining on his original contract with the team before the team locked him in for the foreseeable future.
Back in January, Mathieu told reporters, "I think this is the perfect place for me. I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life here." After signing his contract, Mathieu's response was simple and to the point.
Blessed....— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) August 2, 2016
After tearing his ACL in Week 15, the defensive back was forced to miss the regular season finale, along with the team's first two postseason games in 2015. This was the second major knee injury in three seasons with the team, but they're expecting him to return without any issues.
Mathieu's contract will average $12.5 million per season, which surpasses the $10.8 million Eric Berry will make with the Kansas City Chiefs this season under the franchise tag. Harrison Smith signed a five-year, $51.25 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason, and his average of $10.5 million per year is also lower than Mathieu's average.
Although he does play safety in the Cardinals' base defense, when the team is operating out of the nickel package, with five defensive backs on the field, Mathieu serves as the nickel cornerback. Last December, prior to Mathieu's injury, Pro Football Focus noted that he had spent two-thirds of his defensive snaps in a cornerback role. Only a handful of cornerbacks get paid more than what "The Honey Badger" averages on his new extension.
Mathieu's impact on the Cardinals isn't just felt on the field. The Amazon Prime series All or Nothing with the Arizona Cardinals demonstrated Mathieu's importance to the team. Mathieu inspired his teammates constantly, from encouraging John Brown after he overcame dropped balls to score a touchdown, to pumping up his defensive teammates prior to the NFC Championship against the Panthers.
In his 15 games played during the regular season, the safety amassed 89 total combined tackles (80 solo), 17 passes defended, five interceptions and one sack. His pick-six against the San Francisco 49ers marked Mathieu's first career touchdown as a pro. Pro Football Focus ranked all the cornerbacks in the league in 2015, and Mathieu ranked No. 1 of 119.
In 2013, Mathieu signed a four-year deal worth $3.05 million, including a $265,000 signing bonus. He was set to earn a $675,000 base salary in 2016 along with a $101,407 roster bonus and a $70,000 workout bonus before signing his new deal.