Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals Reach Five-Year Deal, But Can The Honey Badger Stay Healthy Enough To Collect?

Tyrann Mathieu, the explosive safety for the Arizona Cardinals, has reached a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with the team according to ESPN. Mathieu, who earned the nickname “The Honey Badger” during his fierce college football play, is said to be guaranteed $40 million of the five-year $62.5 million contract extension with the Cardinals. But is Tyrann, who has blown not one but two ACLs in three years, worth the payout Arizona is willing to give him? Mathieu’s fellow Cardinals seem to think so.

Tyrann Mathieu was a top college prospect and Heismann trophy candidate coming out of LSU when he had multiple failed drug screenings and was dismissed from the LSU football program. According to USA Today, Tyrann admitted to failing more than 10 drug tests while at LSU. Though Mathieu said LSU attempted to help him overcome his drug problem, it wasn’t enough to get Tyrann on the straight and narrow. Mathieu, or the Honey Badger, could’ve easily gone the direction of Johnny Manziel and put his NFL career in jeopardy by partying his talent away; however, Tyrann was able to get his act together with the help of Arizona Cardinal Patrick Peterson.

Peterson, who had been integral in recruiting Mathieu to LSU, reached out to his own father as a source of motivation to get Tyrann back on the right track. As Mathieu made progress toward overcoming his demons, Patrick Peterson was able to convince the Arizona Cardinals to give the Honey Badger a shot. Mathieu was drafted by the Cardinals in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft and has called Arizona home ever since.

Tyrann Mathieu intercepts a pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin, Cardinals Vs Seahawks 2015. Image by Steve Dykes/Getty Images.
Just under 5’9″ tall, Mathieu has been an imposing threat on the Cardinals’ defense. Whether it be stripping the ball, snagging an interception, tackling an opponent who outsizes him, or sacking the quarterback, Mathieu is a force to be reckoned with for opposing offenses. Since 2013, Mathieu has racked up 195 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, eight interceptions, 29 pass deflections, and one defensive touchdown. But despite Tyrann’s ability to overcome the mental game in his personal life, Mathieu has also had to cope every year with a physical injury on the field.

In 2013, Tyrann Mathieu tore his left ACL against the St. Louis Rams. In 2014, the Honey Badger broke his thumb, impeding his ability to go to the playoffs with the Cardinals whose motto for the season had become “next man up” due to the seemingly never-ending loss of players to injuries. And in 2015, once again right before the playoffs, Tyrann tore his right ACL in an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles. The loss of Mathieu so close to the finish line left Cardinals coach Bruce Arians in tears.

Tyrann Mathieu is carted off the field after tearing his left ACL against the St Louis Rams, 2013. Image by Christian Peterson/Getty Images.
“I love the player, but I love the person more,” Arians had remarked during a press conference following Mathieu’s right ACL tear diagnosis.

If Tyrann can stay healthy, the Honey Badger’s fierce play combined with some of the Cardinals’ offseason roster changes, including the acquisition of Chandler Jones, could mean the Cardinals have a decent shot at being Super Bowl contenders. But even if Mathieu does get injured again, the Cardinals may get their money’s worth out of the emerging leader Tyrann is becoming.

Respected by the defense much like Larry Fitzgerald is by the offense, Mathieu is said to be a key motivator for the Cardinals. Tyrann found himself nominated as an all-pro for his work on the field last season and Mathieu’s dedication to rehabbing from his injuries off the field have proven to be an inspiration, even to those who compete against him.

In April, Mathieu and Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt traded a series of tweets. Watt, who is recovering from a groin injury, let Mathieu know he is even rooting for Tyrann.

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