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Arizona Cardinals could break bank on Tyrann Mathieu before camp

By Alex Butler
Arizona Cardinals could break bank on Tyrann Mathieu before camp
Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (C) reacts to stopping the Cincinnati Bengals from getting a first down in the first quarter of the game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, November 22, 2015. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

PHOENIX, June 29 (UPI) -- Safety Tyrann Mathieu, who ranked as the top cover corner in the NFL last season, wants to be paid more like a corner than a safety.

The Arizona Cardinals are "trying to negotiate extension before camp," according to ESPN's Ed Werder. But Werder also reports that it will be a "tough deal to do year early."

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Pro Football Focus ranked Mathieu with the top grade at cover cornerback with 70.6 percentage coverage snaps in the slot last season.

"Tyrann Mathieu was having a Defensive Player of the Year kind of season before injury struck and robbed him of the final games of the season, as well as robbed Arizona of the best slot weapon in football for the playoffs," PFF's Sam Monson wrote. "Safety or corner, Mathieu spends the majority of his time (70.6 percent of his coverage snaps) in the slot and was PFF's highest-graded cover corner in the league last year. He has the ability to match up with smaller, shifty receivers but also bigger, more powerful TEs and excel against either. He is the defensive version of the matchup problem players that offenses have been exploiting for years to get favorable matchups in the slot, and he may be the first player to tilt the balance the other direction."

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Although he is recovering from an ACL injury this offseason, Mathieu insists that he won't suit up for week 1 unless he's fully healthy.

"If I'm 90 percent, then I don't necessarily want to go out there," Mathieu told the Arizona Republic last month. "I've already shown who I am and what I am, so my objective is to come back that same person. And if I can't come back that same person, maybe I should wait until I am that person again."

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Last month, ESPN's Josh Weinfuss reported that Mathieu doesn't want to be called a cornerback or a safety. Mathieu told Weinfuss that he wants "to get paid as a top defender."

The average salary of the top-5 highest paid NFL defenders is $100.7 million for a six-year contract, with about $55.8 million guaranteed. But Mathieu is set to make 'just' $675,000 in base salary in 2016.

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The Cardinals play its season opener on Sept. 11 against the New England Patriots. It is Mathieu's second ACL injury in three years. Last season, he exited the Cardinals lineup on December 20 in Philadelphia, amid a run for defensive player of the year.

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Cardinals training camp begins Friday, July 29 at 2 p.m.

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