Blanket Coverage: Mathieu's massive contract a huge risk for the Cardinals
This week I’m reporting from Houston where new quarterback Brock Osweiler has genuinely impressed coaches with his grasp of the playbook, communication and overall decision making. Check out my in-depth look at the Texans, which includes notes on J.J. Watt's recovery and a conversation with Lamar Miller who reflects on his time with the Dolphins.
But first, read on for my quick thoughts on other happenings around the league, starting with the Arizona Cardinals crowning Tyrann Mathieu as the highest paid safety in NFL history…
Honey Badger extension right move for Cardinals?: I’m all for players getting as much money as they can. I also like it when a team shows some humanity and recognizes the strides a player has made as a player and a human. So in a lot of ways I love that the Cardinals gave defensive back Tyrann Mathieu a five-year contract extension worth over $62 million. When he’s healthy, he’s a great player and deserves it. The problem is he’s never played a full season and has two serious knee surgeries the past three seasons. (It’s doubtful Mathieu will be ready for Week 1.) Rarely do you see a team do that.
It reminds me of Wes Welker’s career with the Patriots. In the final game of a monster 2009 season (following monster seasons in ’07 and ’08) Welker tore his ACL. He was in line for a big-money contract extension but with Welker injured, understandably one never came. Welker rushed back, played Week 1 in 2010 and, by his standards, had a medicore season. The Patriots had him play out his deal, Welker was franchised in 2011 and then wound up in Denver. I don’t fault the Cardinals or the Patriots for how they did their business. Just interesting how each handled similar situations entirely different.
Snakebit Steelers?: Expect Pittsburgh to be a popular pick by pundits to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but you have to wonder if it will really happen with the rash of injuries the secondary sustains year after year. Secondary is the new offensive line (they embattled them there for years previously) for the Steelers. They were already returning a unit that was third-worst in passing yards allowed without many upgrades. Senquez Golson, a second-round pick in 2015 who missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury was thought to be an internal upgrade and was working as the No. 1 slot corner, but then suffered a Lisfranc injury and could miss at least half a season. Brutal.
Win, win: Good move by the Chiefs and QB Nick Foles to agree to a contract after Foles was released by the Rams. Kansas City could use a boost in its backup competition, and Foles can get back to basics with the coach that drafted him in Andy Reid, who also is a great tutor. Not sure why the Cowboys didn’t push harder for Foles. As I pointed out in May, they needed help before Kellen Moore broke his ankle.
Good message: Bucs first-year head coach Dirk Koetter sent a strong message this week to his team that mediocrity won’t be tolerated when he announced that tight end Cameron Brate and not 2014 second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins was currently No. 1 on the depth chart. Sefarian-Jenkins is very talented but he’s had issues with injuries and his work ethic has been questionable since being drafted. The Bucs have a young team so it’s important for Koetter set the tone about needing to put in the hard work. Talent isn’t everything in this league. Far from it.