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Mathieu should refuse deal that contains no guaranteed money

File photo of Tyrann Mathieu in Baton Rouge

Louisiana State University cornerback Tyrann Mathieu walks off the field after his team defeated Western Kentucky in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in this November 12, 2011 file photo. Mathieu has been dismissed from the Tigers for violating team policy, head coach Les Miles announced August 10. Mathieu was one of the team’s top defensive playmakers for a team that went undefeated during the regular season. Multiple reports have said that the Heisman Trophy finalist failed a drug test. REUTERS/Sean Gardner/Files (UNITED STATES)


The Cardinals have a special plan for the player they selected in round three of the draft, apart from moving him to free safety.

As Peter King of reported on Monday (and as Alper pointed out), the Cardinals plan to test Tyrann Mathieu randomly for drugs, and also to give him no guaranteed money in his rookie contract.

The labor deal permits teams to write a drug-testing clause into a player’s contract, as long as the team has a “reasonable basis” to request testing. (If the Cardinals don’t have a “reasonable basis” to ask Mathieu to submit to drug testing, no team ever does.) And we’re told that Mathieu will indeed agree to submit to random drug testing administered by the team.

It’s not known, however, whether Mathieu will agree to a deal with no guaranteed money. In our view, that’s where Mathieu should draw the line.

If the Cardinals didn’t want to give him guaranteed money, they shouldn’t have made him the 69th overall pick in the draft. Indeed, they shouldn’t have drafted him at all.

Guaranteed compensation for draft picks is driven by one thing: Where they are drafted. It doesn’t matter who the player is or what the player has done. If a player has off-field concerns that affect his value in the draft pool, that will be fairly reflected by the extent to which he falls down the board. When a team takes him at a given spot, fully aware of who the player is and what he has done, the team buys the player for the slot that the rookie wage scale contemplates.

Last year, Bills receiver T.J. Graham received a $671,252 signing bonus as the 69th player taken in the draft. This year, Mathieu should receive at least that much.

And if the Cardinals don’t offer it, Mathieu should hold out.

The Mathieu situation represents the mirror image of a player who gets drafted later than he believes he should have been drafted wanting more money than his draft slot would indicate. Regardless of whether the player or the team think the player was taken too low or too high, his draft slot dictates his compensation. Period.

It’s bad form, in our view, for the Cardinals to even contemplate this. They wanted him with pick No. 69. They took him with pick No. 69. And now they have to pay him accordingly.

The Rams tried a similar approach last year with cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Specifically, they wanted to split his signing bonus into four separate roster bonuses. Jenkins balked, and he eventually received his full $2 million signing bonus.

Mathieu is entitled to be treated the same way. He should refuse to sign any contract unless and until the Cardinals agree to do so.