Tyrann Mathieu heads to Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2018 – 8:11 pm

Tyrann Mathieu was released Wednesday. Friday, he found a new home — albeit for one year, at least for now.

The Honey Badger agreed to to a deal with the Houston Texans for one year. Reportedly, the Cardinals’ last offer on the pay cut was $8 million. Mathieu said a couple of times in interviews since his release money wasn’t the most important thing. The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain reports that the deal is worth $7 million — a $4.5 million signing bonus, $2 million in salary, and $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses (which would average $31,250 per game).

The Texans, assuming quarterback Deshaun Watson is healthy again after tearing his ACL, have a chance to be good. They also will get back from injury defensive end J.J. Watt — who is friends with Mathieu and who was openly recruiting Badger to come to Houston.

Whatever the contract, Mathieu will be in line to return to free agency in 2019. If he is able to take his game back to its 2015 levels, the bet on himself will be pretty valuable. The Cardinals don’t face the Texans in the regular season, but a preseason matchup wouldn’t be out of the question.

As a side note, guard Justin Pugh has also reportedly agreed to a deal with the Cardinals. I’d expect news on that tomorrow. Meanwhile, wide receiver Jaron Brown is headed to the Seahawks on a one-year contract.

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Safety and life after Tyrann Mathieu

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2018 – 12:55 pm

From the day he signed his new contract, Tyrann Mathieu and everyone else knew revisiting the deal might be a possibility. No one thought it was probable, because the last time we had seen the Honey Badger on the field he was playing like an NFL defensive Player of the Year and certainly — despite an other ACL tear — he’d be back to that same player by March of 2018. While Mathieu was solid in 2017 (and played the most snaps in the NFL) even he acknowledged he wanted to play better. And the team wanted to adjust his contract with that revisiting deadline had finally arrived. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, and Mathieu is no longer a Cardinal.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out on the field. It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t want him — they tried to re-do the deal — so they had plans for him. There is this notion out there that his role would be diminished, and while we don’t know exactly what the defense of new coach Steve Wilks will look like, it’s hard to imagine Mathieu marginalized if he had stayed. He didn’t, however, so now Budda Baker is the focal point at safety, along with veteran Antoine Bethea. Tyvon Branch is a free agent and coming off a major injury, so the secondary — which also as of now needs a cornerback across from Patrick Peterson — needs some help.

As for the Honey Badger, it will be interesting to see what his market is, after Kent Somers reported that the pay cut Mathieu was asked to take was said to be “reasonable.” (Everyone has a different perspective on reasonable, of course.) What teams might reach out to him? Could he land in New York, where both of his former defensive coordinators (Todd Bowles as Jets head coach, James Bettcher as Giants DC) are working? Where does he fit?

On a personal level, Mathieu’s story was fantastic to cover and he was always excellent to deal with — even when you would delve into subjects not everyone would want to talk about. He was open about his past. He was interesting talking about the height of his play. He was introspective when speaking about his hometown of New Orleans, and how it’s been a difficult place for him to be. He’s a player you want to see succeed.


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Tyrann Mathieu talks contract

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2018 – 6:13 pm

Tyrann Mathieu was traveling the media circuit Thursday to talk about events he has coming up — a charity kickball game and his “Heart of a Badger” football camps — when it happened to coincide with discussions with the Cardinals about his contract. Mathieu is due a good chunk of guaranteed money March 14 if he remains on his current deal.

“I think there are different ways you can go about restructuring you contract,” Mathieu said during an appearance on NFL Network. “Some guys like their money up front, some guys put it on the back end. The tough part is when someone asks you to take a pay cut. I don’t think that makes sense for a lot of players.”

Asked directly if the Cards had asked him to take a cut, Mathieu said with a smile, “I don’t know.” He also mentioned his agent was the one talking numbers with the team. Asked if he’d be open to a cut, Mathieu said “that’s a conversation that has to be had. My first conversation about (the contract) was today, this morning. We’ll see where it goes.”

Mathieu added, “I love Arizona, obviously. It is a place I feel I really grew up in. The fans, the city, everyone accepting me with open arms. But like I said, when players get in this situation, these things are completely out of our control. Obviously the team has a decision to make. That decision doesn’t necessarily involve me.”

In the end, Mathieu will be part of the decision. He did add, “I would like to make as much as I can make.”

UPDATE: Mathieu talked more about the situation Saturday.

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Tyrann Mathieu’s game-winner on the hardwood

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2018 – 10:31 am

Basketball is a popular topic in NFL locker rooms — in part because many of these athletes believe they could have had a second professional calling in hoops. Some are clearly dreaming. Others can play a bit. (Kurt Warner, who still holds pickup games at his house, was once invited to play at the White House by then-President Obama.)

This weekend, Tyrann Mathieu — who often plays pickup and sometimes invites the public to come play in games at the local gym he frequents — had video proof he can play a little (as he has mentioned once or a few times.) Taking part in a charity game, Mathieu makes a couple of impressive crossover moves before drilling the game-winning three-pointer. If nothing else, it’s always good to see Mathieu moving around well on knees that have had their share of rough moments, ACL-wise.

More importantly, to have video evidence of his basketball prowess will no doubt be used as leverage in the locker room whenever the debate about who the top baller on the Cardinals might be.

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The workload of the Honey Badger

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2018 – 1:10 pm

Even Tyrann Mathieu had hoped he would’ve played a little better this season, but he did improve as the season went on and was healthy. And not only was the Honey Badger healthy, he played a lot. It’s remarkable that the safety, who didn’t play a full season until this year, ended up leading the entire NFL in snaps played.

Mathieu finished with 1,263 snaps on the field — 1,058 on defense and another 207 on special teams. That topped Tennessee cornerback Adoree Jackson’s 1,258 (1,022 on defense, 224 on special teams, and 12 on offense.) There were a handful of players who played more on defense (including former teammates and safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger) but that was in part because the Cardinals’ sixth-ranked defense was able to get off the field more often. It wasn’t like Mathieu rested much. He sat out only six defensive snaps all season.

Five Cardinals played at least 1,000 snaps this season — Mathieu, Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson, A.Q. Shipley (who played 100 percent of the Cards’ 1,124 offensive snaps) and Larry Fitzgerald.

But the other four don’t grab the attention as much as Mathieu, who truly maximized his first season of total health.

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Jones, Baker top positions in NFC Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 16, 2017 – 1:46 pm

Fan voting — which accounts for a third of the Pro Bowl vote — ended this week, and the Cardinals had a pair of players that ended up with the most votes at their position in the NFC. Both Chandler Jones at outside linebacker and Budda Baker on special teams got more votes than anyone else in the conference, which usually is a pretty good harbinger of Pro Bowl status.

We will see — the coaches get another third of the vote and the players the final third, so there is a still a chance for it to go drastically different, especially on special teams when only one player per conference is chosen. In all, the Cardinals had five players to finish in the top 10 at their position in the fans’ Pro Bowl vote. The Cards’ complete list:

— OLB Chandler Jones (fourth in voting in the NFL, first in the NFC)
— ST Budda Baker (1,1)
— WR Larry Fitzgerald (5,3)
— CB Patrick Peterson (7,4)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (7,4)

The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. Arizona time. The game will be played Jan. 28.

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Five Cards hold steady in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2017 – 9:40 am

With a week left in the Pro Bowl voting, the Cardinals still have five players among the top 10 at their positions, and are still led by rookie Budda Baker’s second-place overall among special teams players (and Baker is also second among NFC vote-getters, with Philly’s Kamu Grugier-Hill atop the standings.) What is a little surprising is that Patrick Peterson is eighth among cornerbacks and only fifth among NFC cornerbacks. Peterson certainly is deserving of Pro Bowl recognition this season.

Besides Peterson and Baker, the other Cardinals in the hunt are:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (fifth overall, third in NFC)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (eighth overall, fourth in NFC)
— OLB Chandler Jones (fourth overall, first in NFC)

The fan vote is only part of the equation for Pro Bowl selections, of course. The vote of both the players and the coaches is heavily weighted, but it sure seems like the Cards will be in line for a handful of selections. Voting goes through Dec. 14 and you can vote by clicking here.


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Budda now second in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2017 – 9:25 am

Budda is now second.

A week after the rookie surprisingly led all NFL players in votes for the Pro Bowl special teams spot, Budda Baker dropped to second behind Philadelphia’s Kamu Grugier-Hill. You have to wonder if Grugier-Hill’s emergency turn as kicker — quite a sight on national TV for a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker who looks even bigger — made an impact. Still Baker is in good shape, even if he shrugs off the current standings.

“It feels good but I don’t really pay attention to any of it,” Baker said. “I didn’t really even know about that. Chandler (Jones) told me about it. It’s cool, but it’s still early.”

A quick rundown on the rest of the Cardinals currently among the top 10 vote-getters at their position in the NFL:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (fifth overall, third in NFC)
— OLB Chandler Jones (fifth overall, first in NFC)
— CB Patrick Peterson (eighth overall, fifth in NFC)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (ninth overall, fifth in NFC)

Again, the voting goes through Dec. 14. Click here for a ballot.

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Keim: Low risk, possible reward of Blaine Gabbert

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2017 – 8:23 am

Blaine Gabbert said after the game that he is just playing — there is no thinking about being on a one-year contract, or about the idea he is auditioning for a future role with the Cardinals. General Manager Steve Keim wasn’t saying he isn’t thinking about Gabbert in terms of the future, but even Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 — wasn’t saying exactly what Gabbert might be. He’d only say that, well, Gabbert might be something.

“It’s no different than the reason we signed him in the springtime,” Keim said. “It was very little risk to possibly a high reward. A lot of people scoffed at the fact that we signed him and I don’t think they were very high on that decision, but at the end of the day, I liked him coming out (of college), coach (Bruce Arians) liked him a lot coming out. He’s always had the physical gifts. What was the real risk involved to sign a guy to be the third quarterback?

“The fact that he has stepped up, he’s looked poised and he got a lot of patience in this offense, he’s been a great fit so far and he’s worked his tail off off the field. This gives you the confidence as a general manager and as a coach to make these decisions and hopefully it pays off moving forward.”

I don’t think there’s much question that Gabbert will continue to start regardless of Drew Stanton’s health, but I am sure Arians will be asked later today.

— More Keim on Gabbert: The GM said he couldn’t stop watching the final pass the QB threw, a dart on the run to running back D.J. Foster. Gabbert eluded the rush, running toward the line of scrimmage before he launched. “The way (the ball) jumps out of his hand is phenomenal,” Keim said. He added that he didn’t know what was more impressive on the play, Gabbert’s throw of Foster’s toe-tapping catch.

— He praised Gabbert and the whole team for staying with it despite losing a 16-3 lead and falling behind 17-16 on the Calais Campbell fumble return. “It was a point in the game when you could have had a ‘woe is me’ attitude,” Keim said. The Cards did not.

— Keim was asked about Campbell. He said “I love Calais” but then the GM noted that the big reason Campbell was allowed to walk as a free agent was because that was the money the Cards allocated for the huge contract of OLB Chandler Jones — who, with two sacks and five tackles for loss, leads the NFL in both categories.

— On kicker Phil Dawson, who made all four of his field goals, including the game-winning 57-yarder: “Phil was money,” Keim said. “That’s the guy we signed.”

— Keim said he was happy for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who had arguably his best game. “Sometimes you forget is that the guy has been through quite a few traumatic injuries,” Keim said. “It’s one thing to come back from the physical aliments but to come back and play with the confidence mentally. That’s an obstacle we all have to go through when we incur those types of injuries. He’s coming back into form, he’s always been an instinctive player, and to see him come up with that interception … that can build on the confidence going forward.”

— Keim said it was one of the offensive line’s best games as a unit. He also liked the play of young players like Budda Baker, Foster and Chad Williams, and raved about tight end-who-can-split-wide Ricky Seals-Jones. “He’s a guy we really haven’t had in this offense for a long time,” Keim said — a tight end that can create mismatches.

— On Arians passing up going for it on fourth down and punting, a smart move, after the Cards failed on fourth down the week before, Keim said he had no doubt Arians would make the safe play. “He’s beaten himself up pretty good,” Keim added.

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Splash plays, and Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2017 – 8:16 pm

The Badger was active.

He made a huge interception at the most crucial of times – on a drive where it looked like the Jaguars had stolen momentum and were on their way for a game-winning field goal. But Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly and got the pick. That’s two this season, and while you’d hope for more, you can’t argue that the two could have come at better times.

The plays were there Sunday. Blaine Gabbert was pretty good again. You see what he can do when his legs are needed (although, as Bruce Arians pointed out, there are times when that can cause an issue too, because the fumble was a play that need not have happened.) Another touchdown pass to rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, and a run game too.

Defensively, Chandler Jones had two sacks and five tackles for loss and deserves consideration for all-pro. I don’t know if he’ll get any given the Cards’ record, but he has earned it thus far. The run game stops are what impressed me the most Sunday.

Next week will be interesting. The Rams come to town, playing so well, and the Cards are anxious to play them again after the London wax job. Jacksonville is a good team with a very good defense. That’s what this three-game homestand – good opponents – is about.

— Calais Campbell returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but otherwise was held in check. Gabbert spun away from a potential sack or two. But the Cards didn’t let their former star beat them, all the while welcoming him back. It was good to see the big guy.

“The Birdgang showed a lot of love to me and that felt pretty good,” Campbell said. “Definitely have me chills down my back. My old teammates on the Cardinals, talking to those guys and getting all the love before the game and during the game and even after. The coaching staff, I have a lot of friends in that building, so that was fun. I really wanted to get this win so it definitely hurts right now.”

— By the way, that’s two straight games in which Campbell has returned a fumble for a touchdown when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. His final game here as a Cardinal was against New Orleans last season, when he scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 53 yards for a score. Campbell’s team has lost both games.

— A few weeks ago, I’m guessing not many thought Phil Dawson would be booting a 57-yard field goal to win a game. That would’ve been good from 62- or 63-yards, I’m thinking.

— D.J. Foster gets a spectacular 12-yard toe-catch to set up the field goal, and also had a very nice kickoff return. It was called back on a penalty, but you can see where he excels there. He’s got a chance to make an impact, especially with T.J. Logan still hurt. It’s a great story too, since he went to Scottsdale Saguaro High School and ASU.

“It’s pretty incredible, kind of a surreal moment to get out there on that field and represent Arizona,” Foster said.

— Mathieu talked this week about getting a chance to face friend Leonard Fournette on the field for their first time after the two came from the same neighborhood yet never played together. Mathieu did his job one specific time, tracking down Fournette on a screen pass and dropping Fournette for a loss of five.

“It’s a tough challenge, especially being 190 pounds and running a 4.5 and he’s 230 and runs a 4.4, so the advantage is on his side,” Mathieu said. “There was actually one play, he ran through the hole and then Budda (Baker) came flying in, so kudos to Budda. I was just waiting on (Fournette) and just trying to get in front of him but Budda made a great play. I might take him out to dinner after this.”

Mathieu smiled. It was a good day.

— There was a scuffle post-game between Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, with some swings. It looked heated, but it was calmed quickly and as soon as it was over, Gresham was shaking hands with other Jaguars personnel. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gresham. Jackson simply said “it was a misunderstanding.” Cardinals guard Alex Boone was there too, looking like he was trying to help end things. Asked about the emotions after a win like the Cards had, Boone said “I mean, I think they’re kind of high.”

— It was a quiet, workmanlike performance from running back Adrian Peterson, but those 79 yards on 20 carries were so important. The Cardinals gained 108 yards on the ground, which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win games.

— Fitz and Campbell swapped jerseys. As did Fournette and Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lots of mutual respect there.

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