NFC West: Patrick Peterson contract extension


There are a few things in life worth paying for: shoes, pillows and haircuts.

In football, a young, talented, charismatic lockdown cornerback might just be near the top of that list. The Arizona Cardinals showed Patrick Peterson how much they thought he was worth Tuesday night. Peterson tweeted that he and the Cardinals had agreed on a five-year contract extension worth $70 million that includes $48 million guaranteed.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesPatrick Peterson, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, will remain with the Cardinals after agreeing to a five-year contract extension.
Apparently, the future costs a lot.

In Peterson, the Cardinals have the player they can build a franchise around for the foreseeable future.

With the NFL primarily a passing league, having a cornerback who has shutdown capabilities and isn't afraid of an offense's primary target each week is worth his weight in dollars -- millions of them. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson covered an offense's No. 1 receiver 55 percent of the time. He may have allowed more completions and touchdowns than Arizona would've liked, but when Peterson's responsible for the top pass-catcher on the field at all times, his job is harder than it is for the average defensive back.

Peterson's versatility helped establish his name. He was one of the league's top punt returners before he was battling Richard Sherman on Twitter for cornerback supremacy. His four touchdown returns as a rookie tied an NFL record. Last season, he added offense to his repertoire.

Then there's the fact he's an athletic freak. He's big enough to jam and press at the line of scrimmage, but he's fast enough to turn and run. And he can jump, too. On the field, there was no doubt Peterson was worth the money Cardinals president Michael Bidwill spent to keep him home.

Imagine Peterson on the open market. Arizona wouldn't have been able to compete if teams in the league's premier markets started bidding for his talents.

But there's more to Peterson becoming the cornerstone of an organization than his performance on the field. For the past 11 years, the Cardinals have watched Larry Fitzgerald become the face of the franchise. He was a young star like Peterson, but by the time Fitzgerald turned 24 -- which is how old Peterson is today -- his resume wasn't comparable. Fitzgerald had made one Pro Bowl but wasn't an All-Pro by his 24th birthday. And he evolved into the respected figure he is today in his mid-20s.

Peterson, who turned 24 on July 11, has the football resume and personality to take the reins from Fitzgerald as the face of the Cardinals. And clearly the team's front office sees that. Peterson has become a voice in the locker room, a leader whose maturity speaks for itself. On Tuesday, he spoke about the John Abraham situation with the poise of a seasoned veteran. For a man who was married at age 22, it's fitting that he's been described as old soul.

For a family-run franchise such as the Cardinals, paying Peterson was an investment in their future. But even Arizona realized it is time to protect its money. As negotiations between the Cardinals and Peterson's team heated up behind the scenes this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced Peterson's days as an offensive weapon were over and his punt returns would be limited. There was too much risk involved for $70 million.

But the largest cornerback contract ever doesn't mean he's the best cornerback ever. There's still work to be done. He gets beat more than he should. He relies on his athleticism and speed over fundamentals more than he should. He could study more and get his hands on more balls, Arians has said.

Peterson doesn't seem to be the type of man who'll take his foot off the pedal because he got paid. He'll tell you himself that he's a football junkie.

Even though he spent most of the summer unsure when a deal would get done, Peterson knew one thing: He was worth more than Richard Sherman, who for a short time had the richest cornerback contract in history.

Now, the Cardinals know it, too.

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