Cardinals release Tyrann Mathieu after he declines pay cut

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The Cardinals are signing former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith to a two-year, $8 million deal that could be worth up to $10.2 million, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his interception against the Chicago Bears during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

"I've never made a secret that Tyrann has always had a special place in my heart and always will", Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a statement announcing the release.

Mathieu signed a $62.5 million deal in 2016.

Last year, Mathieu recorded 78 total tackles, seven pass defends, two interceptions and a sack playing in all 16 games for the Cards. While Mathieu struggled to make plays early last season, he showed signs of returning to 2015 All-Pro form down the stretch.

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Despite leading the National Football League in snaps in 2017 and being invited to play in the pro bowl, the Cardinals deemed Mathieu's cap number too high to absorb and the "Honey Badger" era in Arizona has come to an end. That was really the only stipulation Mathieu had for his next team when he was asked about it in a text message from MMQB's Albert Breer.

There are several reasons why this marriage likely won't take shape, however, beginning with the most obvious one: money.

He due a $5 million roster bonus and another $13 million in guarantees on 2018 and 2019 salaries if he stayed on the team.

His rookie season ended prematurely when he tore the LCL and ACL in his left knee.

For his part, a still-quite-young Mathieu (hes only 25) seems more than happy to land with a team whose needs more closely align with what he can offer as a player.