Team president Michael Bidwill (left), Patrick Peterson (center) and GM Steve Keim share a laugh during the Wednesday press conference talking about Peterson's five-year contract extension.
Patrick Peterson wasn't going to avoid the subject, since he noted a couple of times during his opening statement in his Wednesday press conference he was now the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL before a question could even be asked.
Having that added to his bio was important, surpassing the deal signed by Seattle's Richard Sherman earlier this year. But it isn't everything to Peterson.
"I want to be in the Hall of Fame one day," Peterson said in the aftermath of his new five-year extension that could pay him up to $70 million and comes with a reported $15.3 million signing bonus. "I have bigger goals than a massive contract. I've never been to the playoffs since I have been here. I want to bring a championship to this city, to this organization, to the community."
The smiles were plentiful as Peterson, team president Michael Bidwill and General Manager Steve Keim discussed the contract. Peterson got what he wanted, which was not only to be paid but to come out ahead of the other high-end cornerbacks. Sherman's extension gets him an average of $14 million of year; Peterson's fetches him slightly more according to profootballtalk.com.
The Cardinals get to lock up a young, talented defender and burgeoning face of the franchise. There was a reason that the
team engaged Peterson's side in extension talks as soon as the season was over – the earliest it was allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement.
It was the CBA that seemingly would create extra hurdles for Peterson. That 2011 first-round class was the first under the new rules, forcing lower salaries and allowing teams to invoke a fifth-year to deals. The Cardinals did that with Peterson.
Instead, the Cardinals became the first team to get their 2011 first-rounder to agree to an extension when it happened Tuesday night (Dallas did the same with tackle Tyron Smith Wednesday.)
"When you do a deal of this magnitude it takes some time," Keim said.
Peterson insisted if he had not have gotten the contract he would have been fine, with two years already remaining on his previous contract. But he also said he was relieved to get it out of the way.
Otherwise, he doesn't see much changing on how he operates.
"I've been the guy who wants to get better every year, I want to be the guy who leads his team, I want to be the face of this organization," Peterson said. "I've accomplished that in my first three years. Now I want to win championships."
How Peterson is viewed may change, though, said coach Bruce Arians.
"When you are a five-star player, you better play five-star," Arians said. "Money does affect some people, they relax. I don't see that happening with Patrick. He wants to be the best. And he's going to be covering the best every week so he could get embarrassed real quick."
Peterson acknowledged it was "a big deal" to be the highest-paid cornerback, one of his long-ago-set goals. When he first was asked about its importance – especially given his rivalry with Sherman – he deferred to Bidwill.
"Patrick has earned this," Bidwill said. "Being the first in the 2011 class to sign, it's a signal of how much he wanted to be a
Cardinal and how much we wanted him to be a Cardinal. … We couldn't be more pleased to make Patrick the highest paid player at his position. We think he's earned it and I agree – we think he's the best defensive corner in the league."
To which Peterson leaned into the microphone and said, "Stamped. By Mr. Bidwill."
Keim, however, emphasized that the contract wasn't about topping Sherman's or Joe Haden's but of making sure Peterson wouldn't be going anywhere. That's been Keim's line of thinking as he ascended into the GM role, and something the Cardinals have made a priority before that.
Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington and Calais Campbell are all players who have recently signed lucrative extensions.
"Guys are being rewarded who were drafted by the organization who were raised here," Fitzgerald said. "We couldn't be more excited."
Fitzgerald laughed when it was brought up the franchise not long ago was considered cheap.
"I for one can tell you the Cardinals are not a cheap organization," said Fitzgerald, who has made more than $120 million over his multiple contracts. "I will stand on a table and say all day long they are not. We can put that to bed."
They have invested in a player that Keim believes has no peer at defensive back when it comes to the combination of size, speed and skills going after the ball.
"He hasn't even scratched the surface yet, which is actually scary, considering he can redefine the position," Keim said.
If his game gets significantly better, perhaps one day Peterson becomes a bargain. At some point, he won't be the highest-paid corner anymore, because someone will surpass him. It's the reality of the NFL. Right now, though, Peterson said the feeling is "surreal." Time to reach his other goals.
"I want to be here to hoist that Lombardi Trophy," Peterson said.