Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/9/14
The Arizona Cardinals made Tyrann Mathieu a third-round draft pick, and they should pay him as such. After making Mathieu the 69th pick in last weekend’s NFL draft, the Cardinals made it know they didn’t plan to compensate him in conjunction with his draft value. The reported offer was to include no guaranteed money, but Mathieu and his agents balked at that offer — and rightfully so. Sure, Mathieu has his fair share of problems and the Cardinals are taking on a great deal of risk, but it’s risk they willingly accepted when they decided to draft him. It’s pretty simple: you pick the player, you pay the price. Those are the terms they agreed to by sending in that draft card. Other players have come into the draft process with lingering questions looming overhead before, and none picked as high as Mathieu have walked away without some guarantees. The Rams tried to limit Janoris Jenkins‘ guaranteed money after selecting him 39th overall just last year, but the troubled cornerback still received his full $2.1 million signing bonus. Now, given his lofty draft status, Jenkins’ deal probably isn’t a good basis for the Honey Badger. But, going back a few years, the best blueprint to follow might be the Patriots’ contract with tight end Aaron Hernandez. Much like Mathieu, Hernandez’s draft stock fell ahead of the 2010 draft following a few failed drug tests. The Patriots were able to scoop him up midway through the fourth round, and then arranged his contract to account for the inherent risk. Hernandez was slated to get a four-year, $2.3 million contract with about $500,000 in a guaranteed signing bonus. Instead he agreed to a deal with just $200,000 guaranteed but weekly roster bonuses where he could earn back his non-guaranteed bonus money as well as an extra $300,000 over the life of the contract. If the Cardinals were smart, they would follow the same sort of incentive-laden structure with Mathieu. Now, that exact deal might not work in this situation, considering Mathieu was taken 44 spots higher, but it offers a good framework for negotiations. For comparisons sake, let’s take Russell Wilson for example. Wilson was taken 75th overall in last year’s draft and he was given a four-year contract worth $2.99 million that included a $619,400 signing bonus, per Spotrac.com. So, inserting those general figures into the Hernandez framework would merit something along the lines of a four-year deal for a maximum total value of $3.5 million and about $250,000 in guarantees. By including weekly roster bonuses for each of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, the Cardinals then limit their risk in case Mathieu fouls up and offer him the opportunity to make even more money if he stays out of trouble and on the field. The Cardinals could secure themselves even further by hinging Mathieu’s bonuses to his supposed mandatory drug tests as well. No matter what their desired method, the Cardinals should guarantee their new cornerback some money — and in all likelihood they will have to. Head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim knew the risks and potential rewards associated with Mathieu when they selected him in the first place. Now, they need to cut out the BS and pay the man what he is worth. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here. Photo via Facebook/Tyrann Mathieu
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