Tyrann Mathieu headed for massive extension

Tyrann Mathieu suffered a season-ending ACL injury in December that could put the start of his season in peril, but nothing has changed about the Arizona Cardinals' desire to lock down the safety long term.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday on NFL Network's NFL HQ that the sides are "deep in negotiations" to keep Honey Badger in Arizona for the foreseeable future.

"They view him as one of the faces of the franchise and their community efforts," Rapoport said. "... From what I am told a new payday is expected to make him among the highest paid, if not the highest-paid safety in the NFL and don't be surprised, if all goes well, if this is done before everyone breaks for the summer."

Seattle's Earl Thomas earns $10 million per season, New England's Devin McCourty has the highest guarantee at $22 million and Eric Berry is under the franchise tag at $10.8 million in Kansas City.

Mathieu was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate prior to his injury. At 5-foot-9, the safety is a Swiss Army Knife defender, capable of playing close to the line of scrimmage, owns impeccable timing on the blitz and is a plus defender in space, using his superb leaping ability and ball skills against taller tight ends.

Credit the Cards' coaching staff with trusting Mathieu as a moveable chess piece and putting the hard-hitting bullet in a position to make plays. When he was off the field last season, the Cardinals' defense wasn't nearly as dynamic, especially getting after the quarterback.

Arizona could have played the leverage game in negotiations with Matheiu after his latest injury. The third-round pick has never played 16 games. If he becomes the highest-paid safety in the NFL, it's an admission by the franchise the vital role the Honey Badger plays both on and off the field.

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