Cardinals sign Mathieu to four-year contract

The Cardinals agreed to terms Thursday with third-round draft pick Tyrann Mathieu. The four-year, rookie-scale contract is worth $3.052 million and will include some stipulations to account for Mathieu’s history of failed drug tests. It also includes a signing bonus worth $265,000, which is well below the slotted bonus amount of $662,500.

There was early speculation that the deal might offer no guaranteed money, but Mathieu’s agent, Patrick Lawlor, dismissed that notion.

“I never doubted it,” Mathieu told of signing the contract. “I knew it was a long shot and it would be a process, but to finally sit down and sign my name on the dotted line means a lot to me.”

The 86th overall selection in April’s draft is transitioning to free safety for the Cardinals after playing cornerback at LSU. He is expected to be in the mix with veterans Rashad Johnson and Yeremiah Bell for significant playing time. 

He was out of football last season after being dismissed for a violation of team rules that he later acknowledged to be numerous failed tests for marijuana. When he was finally drafted, Mathieu was emotional in a conference call with local media, breaking down in tears several times and admitting that he would have to take extra steps to prove to the Cardinals that his troubled past would not seep into the present.
“If it’s a drug test on a weekly basis, that’s what I have to do,” he said. “If it’s meeting with counselors, therapists and sports psychologists, those are things I’m going to have to meet. It doesn’t matter what they put in my contract. I’m happy that they gave me the second chance.”

The 5-foot-9 Mathieu played two seasons at LSU and became known as “Honey Badger” while earning an invitation to the Heisman Trophy presentation as a sophomore in 2011, when he earned unanimous first-team All-America recognition and the Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player. In his brief career at LSU, he had 11 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries (two returned for touchdowns), four interceptions, 133 tackles, 16 passes defended, six sacks and 27 punt returns for 421 yards and two touchdowns.

When he took the podium for his introductory press conference recently in Tempe, he announced that he no longer wanted to be called Honey Badger because that was a nickname from what he termed “a dark time,” although he quickly added that if kids want to call him Honey Badger, he’s OK with that.

Mathieu is the sixth member of the Cardinals’ nine-player draft class to sign. The team previously agreed to terms with LSU linebacker Kevin Minter (second round), Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor (fifth round), Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope (sixth round), Clemson running back Andre Ellington (sixth round) and Rutgers tight end D.C. Jefferson (seventh round).