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Cardinals release Tyrann Mathieu after he refused pay cut

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) walks the sidelines during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Cardinals have parted ways with defensive back Tyrann Mathieu after the parties could not come to terms on a contract restructuring, the team confirmed on Wednesday.

“I’ve never made a secret that Tyrann has always had a special place in my heart and always will,” said Cardinals general manager Steve Keim in a statement. “While we all understand this a part of the business, that certainly doesn’t make it any easier. We all wish Tyrann nothing but continued success in his career and beyond.”

Mathieu told NFL Network last week that the team asked him to take a pay cut. According to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro, the Cardinals’ offer was not much of a reduction from his salary and he declined it.

The 25-year-old Mathieu was known as one of the best defensive play-makers in the league, but his ability to change games has been diminished since he had his second ACL tear in December 2015.

Playing in all 16 regular season games for the first time and leading the NFL in total snaps, Mathieu recorded 78 tackles in 2017, second-most in his five-year career.

Mathieu signed a five-year contract extension in 2016 worth a total of $62.5 million. The defensive back was due to make $5.75 million in base salary for 2018 but had $8 million of his 2019 salary guaranteed if he was on the Cardinals by March 14. He also had a $5 million roster bonus owed on March 16, per Spotrac.com.

Mathieu had the fourth-highest cap hit ($14.1 million) on the Cardinals’ roster for 2018, according to Spotrac.com.

The move comes following the news of the Cardinals planning to sign quarterback Sam Bradford to a one-year, $20 million deal, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That deal for Bradford has $15 million guaranteed and a team option for a second year at the same base salary.

A controversial college football prospect in his draft class, Mathieu was dismissed from LSU’s team in his junior year due to a violation of team rules. It was reported that Mathieu had failed drug tests.

Despite his clear talents, this made Mathieu a risky pick, a risk the Cardinals decided to take with the 69th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Right before that aforementioned contract extension, Mathieu had the best year of his career in 2015. He made first-team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl despite missing the final two games of the season because of that ACL tear. He had 89 total tackles, one sack, five interceptions and one forced fumble.