Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu agreed Tuesday with the Cardinals on a contract that gives him the biggest contract among NFL safeties.
Does he deserve it?
The Honey Badger got a deal worth $62.5 million, $21.25 million of which is guaranteed.
The 24-year-old Mathieu is entering his fourth NFL season, coming off an abbreviated 2015 in which he tore his right ACL. He also tore the ACL in his left knee in 2013.
In three NFL seasons, Mathieu has played 40 games (31 starts), picking off 8 passes for one touchdown, defensing 30 passes and making 196 tackles along with two forced fumbles.
Last season alone, Mathieu had five interceptions (T-6th in NFL) and one touchdown with 17 passes defensed (T-9th in NFL), one forced fumble, one sack and 89 tackles (14th among safeties) in 14 games.
Mathieu’s stats and popularity among fans likely both contribute to his brand new contract, but how does his on-field performance stack up with other players at his position? Here’s where he stands, dollar-wise:
Top-paid safeties by total contract value:
1) Tyrann Mathieu – ARI; $62.5 MM
2) Jairus Byrd – NO; $54 MM
3) Harrison Smith – MIN; $51.25 MM
4) Devin McCourty – NE; $47.5 MM
5) Earl Thomas – SEA; $40 MM
Top-paid safeties by total guaranteed money:
1) Harrison Smith – MIN; $28.58 MM
2) Devin McCourty – NE; $28.5 MM
3) Jairus Byrd – NO; $26.3 MM
4) Earl Thomas – SEA; $25.73 MM
5) Tyrann Mathieu – ARI; $21.25 MM
Mathieu is ranked fifth among safeties in total guaranteed money, first in total contract value and first in average salary. Here’s how his statistics compare to other top-paid safeties:
Byrd, a free safety on the New Orleans Saints, has a contract worth $54 million (2nd) with $26.3 million guaranteed (3rd). Last year, Byrd played 13 games with one interception, three passes defensed, one forced fumble, one sack and 53 tackles.
The 29-year-old has one Pro Bowl to his name and is signed through 2019.
In four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the 27-year-old Smith has four touchdowns on 12 interceptions. Last season, he had two interceptions for one touchdown to go along with three passes defensed, 1.5 sacks and 66 tackles.
Smith’s contract is worth $51.25 million (3rd) with $28.578 million guaranteed (1st).
This former first-round pick is a six-year NFL veteran with New England, ranking fourth in the league with a $47.5 million contract with $28.5 million guaranteed (2nd). His first three years were more statistically productive than his most recent three, and in 2015, McCourty had just one interception, no touchdowns and five passes defensed in 14 games.
Still, the 28-year-old and brother of Titans cornerback Jason McCourty has proven to be a productive player for Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
Impressively, Seattle’s Earl Thomas has started 16 games in each of his six NFL seasons. He has 21 interceptions and one touchdown in his career, and put up nine passes defensed, five interceptions, one forced fumble and 61 tackles last season.
The productive and reliable Texas alum boasts a contract worth $40 million (5th) with $25.725 million guaranteed (4th).
Berry’s $10.8 million average salary is second-most among NFL safeties behind Mathieu, but that’s at the end of a six-year deal, putting his total current contract value at 28th. In the first four years of that deal, $25 million was guaranteed.
The 27-year-old has battled injuries and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but has stayed resilient to play four full NFL seasons in six years in the league. Last season, Berry had two interceptions with no touchdowns and 10 passes defensed, along with 61 tackles. He and the Badger were also the two safeties who made the All Pro team last year.
Part of what makes Mathieu valuable is his versatility. Listed as a safety, he can also come down to play man coverage as a corner. Among other NFL cornerbacks, Mathieu is well-paid:
Top-paid cornerbacks by total contract value:
1) Josh Norman – WAS; $75 MM
2) Darrelle Revis – NYJ; $70.12 MM
3) Patrick Peterson – ARI; $70.05 MM
4) Joe Haden – CIN; $67.5 MM
5) Byron Maxwell – MIA; $63 MM
6) Tyrann Mathieu – ARI; $62.5 MM
Top-paid cornerbacks by total guaranteed money:
1) Josh Norman – WAS; $50 MM
2) Patrick Peterson – ARI; $47.37 MM
3) Richard Sherman – SEA; $40 MM
4) Darrelle Revis – NYJ; $39 MM
5) Janoris Jenkins – NYG; $28.8 MM
13) Tyrann Mathieu – ARI; $21.25
Mathieu’s new contract has him tied for sixth among corners in contract value, 13th in guaranteed money and tied for eighth in average salary. Mathieu’s numbers compare with other top-paid corners as follows:
After a strange turn of events in which the Panthers rescinded their franchise tag, Norman wound up with the Washington Redskins this offseason. His new contract makes him the highest-paid cornerback in football, boasting a contract worth $75 million (1st) with $50 million guaranteed (1st).
In 38 starts in four seasons with Carolina, Norman had seven interceptions with 36 passes defensed. Last season, he had 18 passes defensed – just one more than Mathieu – with four interceptions, two touchdowns, three forced fumbles and 56 tackles.
Revis has nine years in the league with the Jets, Patriots and Buccaneers. At age 31, he boasts both experience and production to back up a contract worth $70.1 million (2nd) with $39 million guaranteed (4th).
Now in his second stint with the Jets, the four-time Pro Bowler caught five interceptions last year (tied with Mathieu) with nine passes defensed and 39 tackles.
Peterson had fewer interceptions, touchdowns, passes defensed and tackles last year than Mathieu did – and he played two more games. Still, Peterson has been called one of the game’s top corners, and it shows with a contract worth $70.05 million (3rd) with $47.4 million guaranteed (2nd).
As a starter in all 16 games last year, Pat Pete had two interceptions and eight passes defensed with 33 tackles (all solo). For what it’s worth, he also had a 72-yard interception in the playoff loss at Carolina.
Seattle’s Sherman once called himself the best corner in the game, but he’s not paid like it. His $14 million average salary is 4th in the NFL (behind Peterson, Revis, Norman). His current contract is worth $56 million (9th) with $40 million guaranteed (3rd).
The 28-year-old was picked in the fifth round in 2011, but has gone on to be one of Seattle’s biggest standout players. In his five seasons, Sherman has 26 interceptions and 84 passes defensed. Last year, he had two interceptions, 14 passes defensed and 40 tackles.
Haden has been in the NFL for six years, all with the Cleveland Browns. Though his team has finished in last place in the AFC North every year but his rookie season (3rd), he has managed to be a productive player, earning a contract worth $67.5 million (4th) with $22.7 million guaranteed (12th).
Multiple injuries limited Haden to just five games last year, but in 2014, the Florida alum had three interceptions, 20 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and 73 tackles in 15 games.
Among non-quarterbacks, Mathieu ranks 30th in average salary. The top three highest salaries for non-QBs belong to Broncos OLB Von Miller, Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh and Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson.