GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Peterson held nothing back Wednesday as he discussed his new five-year, $70 million contract extension, again declaring himself the league’s best cornerback and on several unprompted occasions mentioning he’s now the NFL’s highest paid at his position.
While Peterson admitted it was his goal to be the league’s highest paid cornerback, the 24-year-old Cardinals star on Wednesday set his sights on more meaningful pursuits.
"I have bigger goals than a massive contract," Peterson said. "I want to bring a championship to this city, to this organization and to the community.
"I want to be here to hoist that Lombardi Trophy. I don’t know when it’s going to be. It could be this year, next year, fives years from now — whenever the case may be, I want to be here."
Peterson was equal parts humble and proud as he sat between team President Michael Bidwill and General Manager Steve Keim. He was sure to thank everyone in the Cardinals organization, from owner Bill Bidwill to his teammates, clearly appreciative of the financial faith placed in him.
But Peterson didn’t mince words about his desire to reach this peak or his belief in himself as the NFL’s elite cornerback.
"I think I’ve done a lot in my young career to be recognized not only as the best cornerback in the league but also being recognized as the highest paid cornerback in the league," Peterson said. " I always had visions that I wanted to be the highest paid cornerback to ever play the game, and now that I am it just feels so surreal."
In relation to the league’s other elite corners, Peterson’s deal is right in line with his talent. Seahawks corner Richard Sherman signed a four-year, $57 million deal in May, and Browns corner Joe Haden signed a five-year, $68 million deal around the same time. Those deals set a precedent for Peterson’s.
"When you have other corners, particularly guys that are getting paid like that, it’s always good to have comps," Keim said. "But at the end of the day we were more focused on Patrick, not Joe Haden or Richard Sherman."
Expectedly, the ongoing debate over the league’s best cornerback — specifically the war of words between Peterson and Sherman — came up during Wednesday’s press conference. Peterson, of course, stood by his previous statements, and got support from his superiors.
"We couldn’t be more pleased to make Patrick the highest paid player at his position," Bidwill said. "We think he’s earned it, and I agree: He’s the best defensive corner in the league."
Added Keim: "In my humble opinion, there isn’t another corner in the league that has his size, speed, explosiveness, athleticism (and) ball skills. On top of that, Pat will probably be the first to tell you he hasn’t even scratched the surface yet, which is actually scary considering that he can redefine the position."
With opinions like that, it’s no surprise the Cardinals made such commitment to Peterson. Also factoring prominently in the team’s decision to reward Peterson this way were his leadership — he’s a team captain at 24 — and dedication to the community.
Keim said the team began negotiating with Peterson and his representatives immediately after last season ended, certain they wanted to lock up their defensive leader. All parties expressed relief Wednesday the process is now over.
The deal took time — much longer than the 20 seconds Bidwill recalled it taking for the Cardinals to draft Peterson fifth overall when they were on the clock in 2011 — but ultimately both sides were committed to keeping Peterson in Arizona.
With the deal now done, both sides can focus solely on football, and there’s little expectation the extension will change a thing about Peterson’s commitment to his craft.
"Money does affect some people," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "They relax. I don’t see that happening with Patrick. He has a drive to be the best, and he’s going to covering the best every week so (relaxing) will get him embarrassed real quick."
Being paid as the league’s best cornerback, Peterson said, is only further motivation to prove he is and continue adding to a resume that already includes three Pro Bowl appearances and two First Team All-Pro selections.
"I want to be in the Hall of Fame one day," Peterson said.
Bidwill said it’s a goal to have to Peterson’s name in the team’s Ring of Honor one day, joining Ollie Matson, the only other Cardinals player to make the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons.
As much as Peterson discussed his new status as the league’s best-compensated cornerback, mentioning it twice before he was asked about it, Peterson ultimately made it clear he’s here to win football games, achieving something more meaningful to his team and its fans.
Peterson may now clear the largest paycheck among corners, but as Sherman reminded him Wednesday morning by tweeting a picture of his Super Bowl ring, Peterson has yet to reach the sport’s competitive peak.
"I haven’t been to the playoffs since I’ve been here," Peterson said. "I have one winning season since I’ve been here.
"I’m all in with this team, this organization, this coaching staff. I want to win a championship, and that’s what it’s all about."