Tyrann Mathieu says it’s not about the paycheck. (Rick Scuteri/Associated Press)

The Arizona Cardinals wanted Tyrann Mathieu to take a pay cut just 19 months after they signed the versatile yet oft-injured safety-cornerback hybrid to a five-year, $62 million contract. First, according to MMQB’s Albert Breer, they asked him to take $5 million less than the $11 million he was due in 2018. He said no. Then the team came back asking him to take a $3 million salary reduction. He said no again. So on Wednesday, they cut him.

Mathieu took the move in stride and tweeted out a nice salute to his now-former team:

He also wants to make it clear that he’s looking for a team in which winning is ingrained, not just a big paycheck.

“It’s not all about money for me,” Mathieu told Breer. “I want to go somewhere where I can be completely immersed in football, and it’s not too much about anything but winning. I want to be a part of winning culture, where you feel that all the time. That’s all I want.”

Someone is going to pay Mathieu, but his injury history might be the reason for his tempered salary expectations: Three of his five NFL seasons have ended with him on injured reserve (including 2015, when he was a first-team all-pro after picking off five passes in 14 games). But he played and started in all 16 games in 2017, though he says the previous injuries were weighing on him.

“I wasn’t playing well, I didn’t hit the ground running,” he explains. “And so there was noise, chatter about me and about what I can do and whether I was all the way back from the injuries. I’d listen to the radio, look at articles, they’d put that out there. The Cardinals can cut him. I was aware. So I just tried to put myself in a position where people would want me again. I thought I finished the season strong.

“I had a few years where I’d come back from injuries and play at a high level. And to do that over and over, it was poking at my confidence. That held me back, my confidence level down, and keeping me from what I was having to do.”

According to NFL.com, the Giants, Jets, Raiders, Bucs, Packers, Texans and Saints all could be in the running for Mathieu, with the two New York teams seemingly in the lead (Giants defense coordinator James Bettcher ran the Cardinals’ defense from 2015 to 2017, and Jets Coach Todd Bowles held the job before him). Whether either of those teams, which combined to go 8-24 in 2017, have anything close to a “winning culture” remains to be seen.

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