Mathieu and the Cards’ contract cliff

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2016 – 10:25 am

Tyrann Mathieu is going to get a contract extension. When, exactly, remains an unknown, although Ian Rapoport reported Monday the team and Mathieu are “deep in negotiations” toward a deal. I’ve long felt this was a matter of when and not if with the all-pro safety. For a multitude of reasons for both sides, it behooves both to get a new contract done.

But from the Cardinals’ end, a big reason to want to lock up Mathieu is because of the laundry list of players who, as of right now, are free agents after this upcoming season. It’s a subject we’ve talked about before, and the reality is not everyone will be with the Cardinals after this year. Still, if you have hope to having some guys around, you’d think the Cards would want to pare down the work facing them before this year ends. Here is the list — and it doesn’t include every single FA-to-be — of guys who are contract-less after 2016, as it stands right now:

— S Tyrann Mathieu
— WR Larry Fitzgerald
— OLB Chandler Jones
— DT Calais Campbell
— WR Michael Floyd
— G Evan Mathis
— DT Frostee Rucker
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Andre Ellington
— S Tony Jefferson
— TE Jermaine Gresham
— OLB Alex Okafor
— ILB Kevin Minter
— WR Jaron Brown
— S D.J. Swearinger
— RB Stepfan Taylor

That isn’t the entire list, but those are the bigger names. Obviously, each are taken individually to an extent. Some guys the team will just move on from in the normal course of roster change in a salary-capped world. But big picture, it’s a puzzle GM Steve Keim and his department are working on as this season approaches.


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36 Responses to “Mathieu and the Cards’ contract cliff”

  1. By DTL on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Michael Bidwill had interesting comments re same on Big Red Rage, to effect: balancing injuries with top performer status is complicated challenge, but we’ll get there…no reason to doubt it me thinks

  2. By danafrancis on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Wow. I am amazed at the number of “big names” here. Obviously Mathieu is essential, as are some others on this list. All these names lend strength to the “narrow window, limited time” argument. But with leaders like Mathieu and Peterson locked up for a time, the Cards can continue to build around them and maintain one of the fiercest defenses in the league for years to come.

  3. By Steve on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Darren: Of all those names, two stand out to me, Calais and Michael Floyd. I believe Chandler probably gets tagged, Fitz does a team friendly 1-2 yr deal and Tyrann gets extended. If the Cards had to make a choice between keeping Campbell or Floyd but not both, which of the two is the favorite in your opinion to stay a Card?

  4. By Darren Urban on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: Campbell v Floyd

    I’m not sure that’s what it comes down to, but again, it’ll depend on what the players are looking for. If both price themselves well beyond what the Cards want to pay, I could see neither.

  5. By Joe c. on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Honestly, only about half those players should be in the future plans or needed. The top 5 and Jefferson, Minter, Okafor would be great. Mathis on down there are a few that I don’t think will be here either way. Mathis, CJ, Andre, Swearinger, Taylor. God bless them, But if those five left I don’t think it would matter. Not to be cold, I love Andre and I like what Swearinger brought. And they were ready to let Jefferson go…J Brown is the 5th receiver. Gresham has a good year he’ll want big money. Get those first five.

  6. By CreditCard on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Salary cap = Parity.

    If a team does well, the players are rewarded. This then will eventually cause a salary cap squeeze. A team with a salary cap squeeze will be faced to unload quality players. Ultimately this allows other teams to succeed.

    The circle of parity; a genius move by the NFL. Look at MLB whereby the larger markets normally do most of the winning — doesn’t add much to fan excitement.

    The above lengthy list of players for salary negotiations at the end of 2016 season looks daunting, this really is a result of being successful. This is a good problem.

    If you look at the draft, it appears the Cards have already been preparing to unload a handful of players next year, and replace them with quality athletic younger players.

    Kiem and Company have a strategy, and they are sticking to their plan. I’ve been impressed by Mr. Bidwill and the organization that he leads. Because of their planning and mapping out careful strategies — the Cards will be perennial winners.

  7. By clssylssy on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    I love the Badger but he hasn’t played an entire season yet w/o a season ending injury so, while I love his Swiss Army Knife skill set, I would think there would be some anxiety about giving him a Josh Norman type contract w a huge amount guaranteed that could come back to bite us when he gets a serious injury w his kamakazee style of play. It sounds like the Cards are afraid he’ll go to the highest bidder (which could be somebody in our division) and that the need to make him the highest paid safety in the NFL is contrary to the “team first” philosophy We are always hearing about. One would think he might want to give us a hometown discount, all things considered.

  8. By Darren Urban on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: Mathieu

    He thinks he already did that when they got what they got from him on a third-round contract in which he’s been underpaid. I don’t blame him. He lost money coming out of school because of his issues. He fixed his life and has played well. Injury or no injury, time to get the big money.

  9. By mitchaz on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Some early guesses:

    — S Tyrann Mathieu—CORE—3 years @ $32M + incentives; $12M guaranteed.
    — WR Larry Fitzgerald—CORE—1-2 years @ $7M per, if he doesn’t retire.
    — OLB Chandler Jones—CORE—franchise tag. Goal: 4 years @ $56M + incentives and $22M guaranteed.
    — DT Calais Campbell—UFA—he will get more $$$ elsewhere (comp value)
    — WR Michael Floyd—UFA—same as Campbell (comp value)
    — G Evan Mathis—-If he plays well and wants to return, another 1 year $3M deal awaits
    — DT Frostee Rucker—with another good year in rotation, a one year $1.5M awaits.
    — RB Chris Johnson—if he proves he’s a #2 RB fit, another 1 year $2M+ incentives deal awaits
    — RB Andre Ellington—UFA—he will get more $$$ elsewhere (comp value)
    — S Tony Jefferson—UFA—will get more $$$, plus they drafted his successor (comp value)
    — TE Jermaine Gresham—big year gets him 2-3 year deal @ $4M a year.
    — OLB Alex Okafor—UFA—may have trouble making 2016 team. Might have some late round or player for player trade value to rush needy team like Cowboys.
    — ILB Kevin Minter—UFA—if he accepts Keim’s 2 down ILB $$$ offer, he sticks, otherwise he make more $$$ elsewhere (comp value)
    — WR Jaron Brown—if the $$$ is right, they re-sign him.
    — S D.J. Swearinger—at reasonable $$$, he sticks
    — RB Stepfan Taylor—UFA—may have trouble making the 2016 team, as roster spots will be precious and defensive rookies all look good on STs.

    These are guesses as to what Steve Keim may have in mind…not necessarily my own personal choices. It will be very hard to see some of these players get gobbled up in FA.

  10. By John The Draft Guy on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    I got to say, they way you listed them is pretty much the priority in my opinion. The top 3 of Matheu, Fitz and Chandler Jones are your first tier. They are high priority and have to be resigned.
    Group two of Mathis, Campbell, and Floyd are your second tier and they would be guys who would be resigned if the contract is right for the team. You can’t over pay for this group. If salary demands are too high, let them walk.
    Group 3 is CJ, Ellington, TJ, and Frostee, and Swearinger. These are vets who would be resigned if they are willing to come back on those 1 year Keim specials.
    Group 4 all need to be upgraded. I would not bring any back of the rest.
    So if only group 1 is brought back, I wouldn’t be upset. But if anyone from group one is not brought back, well, that would be bad

  11. By mitchaz on May 16, 2016 | Reply


    I think Darren is correct—in all likelihood both Campbell and Floyd stand to make more $$$ on the open market and each would have to accept SK’s “line in the sand” offer at the team’s price prior to FA, which, of course, their agents will discourage and reject, which will prompt SK to move on.

    What works against Campbell is the drafting of Robert Nkemdiche and the intention to start Rodney Gunter at DE this year. Josh Mauro wasn’t on this FA list, but he is a rotation DE the coaches like and it’s quite possible ands perhaps even likely that SK will try to re-sign Mauro before the start of FA next year.

    What’s surprising is how nothing has been done to ameliorate Calais’ 2016 $15.2M cap stranglehold. It seems Keim is stuck in that he really doesn’t want to commit to Calais beyond this year (thus is unwilling to talk extensions)—and as of yet he hasn’t asked Calais to take a reasonable pay cut to help the team add a couple of more FAs on “prove it” deals.

    The writing has been already on the wall for Floyd in that Keim has put him on the trading block two years in a row. That suggests very strongly that they are uncomfortable with Floyd’s salary—not necessarily with him as a player—but with him making more than what his production warrants.

  12. By mitchaz on May 16, 2016 | Reply


    I agree with the spirit of what you wrote in that Honey Badger has to be realistic about factoring in the two knee injuries. If he thinks he should get $14M a year, then he is being unreasonable and he is also not taking into account what the team needs to be able to do cap-wise to remain yearly SB contenders.

    What it boils down to is—Honey Badger is going to have to make the choice to get paid this year or to risk it all on how he performs this year heading into FA.

    I think 3 years at $32M (symbolic number like Fitz’s $11M) with $12M in guarantees and some yearly incentives is a very reasonable common ground.

    He gets paid his signing bonus this year (as opposed to playing this year for a mere $12.M) and in 2019, if he keeps playing at a high level, he is still young enough to make a very lucrative third contract. He just turned 24. He would only be 27 when he gets his third contract.

  13. By Darren Urban on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    mitchaz —

    RE: Mathieu deal

    If he signs a new deal, it will be for longer than three years. I’d guess 5 or 6 years.

  14. By Scott H on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Man, that list is scary for the first 5 players listed. Yikes. I can’t help feeling like maybe this becomes easier if they just win the damn SB this year. MAYBE that prompts Fitz to retire, so MAYBE that takes care of him…..maybe? Who knows? Not that I WANT to see Fitz retire, but…..I will be more than OK with seeing him retire as a Cardinal and having had a chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy.

    IF Fitz moves on into reitrement ( with a SB ring owner, of course ), that should make things easier to keep Floyd. But at what price? I love Floyd but he has to have his best year – and TRULY show that he is our best WR going toward the future – to justify him getting Fitz-like money. Fitz has reached the level of being THE best WR in the game during his career. Floyd really has not. Not yet, anyway. Others have asserted that if Floyd gets the same number of catches Fitz does, he’s a better WR. OK. Projections are one thing. Actual achievement another.

    MAYBE winning the SB this year also makes parting ways with Campbell easier, too? Maybe? Especially if Jones has a monster year and looks like he is gonna be a beast for years to come? I mean, if it comes down to one or the other….how do you not go with the younger guy just coming into his prime?

    The Honey Badger is gonna get his. And he should. Hope it gets done sooner than later. But he’s not going anywhere.

    But the horror of this is that they will not all be here in 2017. I think we know that. A SB win will ease the pain of whatever happens ( for me ). If we come up short again, and we know some of these guys will be departing….that will be very painFUL ( for me ). It will be hard for me to move on without guys like Fitz and CC.

  15. By D on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Has there been a bigger “face” of the franchise than Larry in the past 25 years?

    K. Warner-retired
    J. Plummer- moved on which was good for both sides
    D. Dockett- could have been uglier if he made the SF team
    A. Boldin – ended ugly
    K. Dansby- not as big as a Larry
    L. Centers – tough to see him leave ( I think he got a SB ring in NE)
    A. Wilson – tough one to lose, but still not on Larry’s level
    A. Williams- a little bigger than Wilson and he still had football left with the Rams

    I don’t want to be S. Keim if Larry doesn’t want to retire after this year.

  16. By Joe C. on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    I don’t understand the disappointment in Floyd. I thought he has played really well. Fitz will only resign if he wants to play, I think any reasonable amount should get him resigned. Get Campbell done now spread the $15M over a few years. It will look like more money than it is. Jones will cost a fortune. He’s worth it. Campbell Mathieu this year, Floyd and Jones next year. Fit Fitz in and resign safety and a linebacker.

  17. By NJAzCardsFan on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Looks like this year will be SB or Bust….!!!!!!!

  18. By Scott Brown on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Joe C –
    some of the issues with Floyd is that he is just consistent enough to be considered as a teams #1 receiver.
    last year 800 yards and 6 td’s, put him third on the team in receiving.

    this is why some fans were saying that SK might have used him as a trade on draft day, as CJ, DJ and a healthy Gresham all should be able to make up the 800 / 6td production.

  19. By mitchaz on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Darren—I hope you are correct about Honey Badger getting a 5-6 year deal.

    The questions are how comfortable the Cardinals will be offering him a mega-millions in guarantees in light of the two knee injuries (which even Michael Bidwill has stated as a factor)—and—whether the Cardinals will agree to pay him as a CB (he played 68% of his snaps at CB last year, 24% at SS and 8% at FS).

    When we first see what the numbers are, they might look pretty staggering, but it will be interesting to see what the guaranteed money is, what his base salaries are and how many of the millions are tied into incentives.

    Joe C.—Floyd has the length and speed and 50/50 ball ability BA wants. However, (a) he seems to be frequently hampered by injuries; (b) he’s looks skittish about catching intermediate passes over the middle—he’s no RAC warrior the way Fitz is. Nowhere near as close. In that regard, his route tree is limited and thus, as long as this the case, he cannot be considered a true #1 WR, nor should he be paid like one.

  20. By Darren Urban on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Mitchaz —

    RE: Length of deal

    Only way it would be shorter is if the Cards get to pay a little less and Mathieu bets on himself for another deal in a couple of years. But I don’t see that happening because this is Mathieu’s chance at big money and he too must think about a future injury derailing him.

  21. By Dr. G. on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    If we win the BIG ONE? I’m not a mind reader, but Fitz is set to move on to another interest like a travel log, coaching, or the media after he takes a very long globe trotting vacation…good for both parties. ((If not, perhaps a dilemma.)) Still, no huge cap blocker deal for the team can happen.

    A lot rides on how well Nkemdiche, Jones and Matthiew do. If Palmer keeps upright, this team can beat any in the league…If not, 2017 will be a very different experience. ((A QB for the future will be absolutely needed regardless))

    If Floyd gets the ball, he will prove that he is our best WR…being a good thing to do a deal and keep him around…still young. There is NO #1 pick WR that would replace him.

    As posted…many other considerations for 2016…much dependent upon our success. Later, CARDS FANS

  22. By Joe C. on May 16, 2016 | Reply

    Floyd was hurt pretty bad last year. He still had 800 yards. I’m pretty sure if the play called for him to go over the middle he would. Judge him off this upcoming year. He hasn’t earned top receiver money yet. I’m not sure who you think is going to replace him.

  23. By faster on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    @mitchaz, i doubt mathieu would agree for this money.

    i (and i`m glad, i`m no management) would offer him a 25 mio guaranteed for 5 years and incentives up to 15 mio a year, for example 500k+ for each game as a starter, 500k+ for each interception, 1 mio for starter at superbowl, 1 mio for probowl and so on.

    if he plays at a pro bowl level, he shuld get some 20 mio a year. if he is injuried, the risk should be split between him, the team and maybe some insurance, therefore the 5 mio guaranty each year.

  24. By faster on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    @darren, is it possible, to make a contract with freeney, starting with the first game in september, without counting against the rooster?

  25. By Darren Urban on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    Faster —

    RE: Freeney


  26. By Ottis Anderson Fan on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    The best thing about all those guys being in contract years is that they should be playing their absolute best in attempt to increase their payday next contract. With this year being a “Super Bowl or Bust” year, all those contract year players is a good thing.

  27. By Rick Chancellor on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    Injuries, injuries, and injuries that’s what it is all about. Which is to bad. RC

  28. By clssylssy on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    This is going to be a critical year and much will ride on depth and durability which had proven to be our roadblock to success the last few years. Looking at that list, it would appear like poor management of our resources with so many big contracts being due at the same time. A large part of the reason we’ve been successful in recent years is SK has found skilled players on the cheap but we’ve also painted ourselves into a corner.
    At this point our secondary is pretty “iffy” with both PP & TM sidelined and recuperating with no guarantees (remembering TM was not his savage self the last time he went through this)
    Darren…having some difficulty following your logic that WE already got a discount on TM because he screwed up in college w behavior that caused his draft stock to fall! I believe that players should get paid and I believe in rewarding merit, want to keep the HB in Cardinal red, just can’t see him lasting another five years the way he plays (which is what makes him special & we would expect nothing less). If TM is the team player we think he has become, I’m sure he’ll work with the organization for The Greater Good etc.

  29. By Darren Urban on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: “Discount”

    1) Doesn’t matter whether it was deserved or not, I’m saying that’s how Mathieu is going to look at it.
    2) The “discount” is always something fans (and the team) like. It’s not necessarily something the player should do.
    3) The Cardinals haven’t painted themselves into a corner. This is how the NFL is set up with the cap. If you have a good team and collect good players, eventually, you are going to lose some of them because you cannot pay them all.

  30. By Crow on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    unrelated note….. has Arizona thought about mettenburgh (spelling error) from Tennessee….. Just waived?

  31. By Joe C. on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    Clssylssy, I beg to differ on painting ourselves into a corner. Darren has shared a website a couple times that shows salary cap hits out about ten years. The cardinals are in great shape. Beyond Fitz and Palmer they can decide who to invest in and who to let move on. This year Campbell’s salary is a burden, but he is an all pro. if he walks you give his cut to Jones and now you have one of the best young edge rushers locked up. Palmer leaves you give his money to the next quarterback. We just have to find him. The whole left side of the line is set. The rookie center and rt tackle should be good. Just a few holes to gap in the coming years. No dead money to speak of. I think we’re in excellent shape. of course decisions on the horizon make all the difference!

  32. By Carlos De Leon on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    I hope they keep Tyran, Fitzgerald, Floyd and Calais. Everyone else is expendable

  33. By Xkimo on May 17, 2016 | Reply

    SHOW TYRANN THE $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$…

  34. By Scott H on May 20, 2016 | Reply

    Carlos De Leon –

    RE: Everyone else is expendable

    Whoa….so, CHANDLER JONES is expendable??? Already? Did I miss a couple of seasons? When did that happen??

    They just traded to acquire this guy – one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL – to fill a definite need. Believe it – he is definitely one of the guys on this list who will ABSOLUTELY be re-signed after this season. They didn’t give up a 2nd round pick to “rent” a guy for one season.

    I’m assuming you just over-looked that one, or perhaps you believe him to be a done deal as well, so didn’t need to mention him. If so, ignore this.

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