Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu gets a hug of congratulations from quarterback Carson Palmer before Tuesday's practice as the news of Mathieu's new contract became public.
Tyrann Mathieu is an all-pro safety who often plays like a cornerback.
He is now has a contract that proves it.
Mathieu, who had been scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season, has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him with the Cardinals through the 2021 season and make him one of the highest-paid defensive backs.
A press conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Arizona time Wednesday.
"I want what is best for my team, and I want what's best for me personally," Mathieu said in June about a potential extension. "I don't want to be in a situation where it's bad for both sides. I don't think that's fair to the Cardinals, to my teammates. The only way you win in this league is to get good players around
you. You can have two or three people eating up the whole salary cap.
"I think it's important for me to recognize that, to understand that side of it as well. But to also understand the type of player I am."
As initial news of the contract broke Tuesday, Mathieu received multiple tweets of congratulations from teammates. At the outset of practice, he even received congratulations from Senator John McCain, on hand to watch the Cards as a guest of team president Michael Bidwill.
"Guys will get paid for their hard work and efforts, and Ty is a great example of that," defensive tackle Calais Campbell said after practice. "He's a great guy in the locker room. He's a guy I want in my fox hole. The front office did a great job locking him up, because he's an unbelievable player."
The move will make sure one of the team's best defenders will stick around for the future and takes one
of the many players headed toward free agency off General Manager Steve Keim's to-do list. There is still a litany of scheduled free agents at the end of the season, including wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, defensive linemen Campbell and Frostee Rucker, linebackers Chandler Jones, Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor, safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger and running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington.
Mathieu is on the physically unable to perform list as he gets to the end of his ACL rehab. The Cardinals were expected to have some injury protection in the deal given that Mathieu has already two serious knee injuries.
But when he is on the field Mathieu has proven to be an electric playmaker. He was in the discussion for defensive player of the year last season, and the website profootballfocus.com rated him their top cornerback in the league – calling him that because they said he played the majority of his snaps as a cornerback and not as a safety.
In 14 games before Mathieu got hurt, he had five interceptions, a team-high 16 passes defensed, 89 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He was the NFC defensive player of the month in November.
"Any challenge that man has in a game, in his life, whatever, he is going to make it his mission to make sure whatever obstacle it is, whatever assignment he has, he can get it done," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said last season.
Images from Tyrann Mathieu's impressive 2015 campaign