Tyrann Mathieu's contract could be an issue (USA Today Sports Images)
Even though Tyrann Mathieu was selected in the third-round of the 2013 NFL draft, the "Honey Badger", who was kicked out of LSU for multiple failed drug tests and was arrested last October for possession of marijuana, knows that he will have to continue to prove that his drug using days are behind him to remain in the NFL.
According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the Arizona Cardinals, who are moving Mathieu from cornerback to free safety, will include language in Mathieu's rookie contract that will allow them to randomly drug test the No. 69 pick of the draft, perhaps on a weekly basis. King also reports that Mathieu's rookie contract might not contain any guaranteed money.
Both approaches are allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. While Mathieu and his agent, Patrick Lawlor, should have no issues agreeing to the random drug testing — Mathieu will be tested at random by the league anyway —they should flat-out reject any contract offer that contains no guaranteed money as that would be an unprecedented deal.
Lawlor has denied that he has agreed to those terms.
"Ridiculous. Not gonna happen," Lawlor told Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. "We had no contract discussion with them."
It's good that Lawlor has no plans to do that as "Shutdown Corner" has looked at rookie contract data dating back to the 2006 draft class and found no instance of a contract that contained zero guaranteed money. There were, however, examples of teams protecting themselves in contracts with players who were a bit of a risk.
Last season, the St. Louis Rams tried to play hardball with cornerback Janoris Jenkins, the No. 39 overall pick of the draft. The Rams reportedly wanteded to split Jenkins' $2,069,324 signing bonus into roster bonuses, but Jenkins won that standoff, receiving his full signing bonus and $2,964,824 in fully guaranteed money. The Rams' big win in those negotiations were to receive league minimum base salaries in all four seasons of the deal and Jenkins had to be on the team's 53-man roster (or injured reserve or the physically unable to perform lists) for the first regular season game to earn a partially-guaranteed roster bonus of $136,832 in 2013 and non-guaranteed roster bonuses of $273,665 (2014), and $410,498 (2015).
One model that the Cardinals and Lawlor could follow was the rookie contract that the New England Patriots and Aaron Hernandez reached in 2010.
Like Mathieu, Hernandez reportedly had failed some drug tests during his time in college. The Patriots took the former Florida standout in the fourth-round, the No. 113 overall pick that should have come with a contract worth $2.29 million and included a guaranteed signing bonus of around $500,000. Hernandez signed a deal that included relatively little in terms of guaranteed money — his signing bonus, the only portion of the deal that was guaranteed, was just $200,000, around 40 percent of what that draft slot should have received — but had a maximum value of $2.69 million as Hernandez could earn $388,000 in weekly roster bonuses (for being on the 53-man roster, injured reserve or physically unable to perform list) in all four seasons of the contract.
Hernandez earned all 48 of those roster bonuses over the last three seasons and can earn 16 more (worth $118,000 total) in 2013 as the "per game" roster bonuses remained even after signing his five-year, $37.5 million contract extension last October. Hernandez is "per game roster bonus" free in 2014, but can earn $31,250 per week ($500,000 over a full season) in "per game" roster bonuses from 2015 through 2018.
As the No. 69 overall pick, Mathieu's signing bonus should be in the $671,000 range. The Cardinals knew that before taking a chance on Mathieu, so they could, and arguably should bite the bullet and pay Mathieu the full amount. There are, however, ways for the two sides to find a middle ground before training camp opens in late July.
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