The Cardinals and Bethel have agreed to a restructured contract, reducing his cap hit from $4.5 million to $2 million for the 2017 season and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, Darren Urban of the team's official site reports.
Near the end of the 2015 campaign, Bethel received an extension that ran through 2018, but with a year now chopped from the deal, he'll hit the open market next March. The development could be fortuitous for the five-year pro, who lost competition at cornerback when Marcus Cooper opted to sign with the Bears on Saturday. If Bethel can pounce on the opportunity this season, a windfall could be coming his way due to a combination of coverage skills and special teams acumen.
Bethel accrued 39 tackles (37 solo), six passes defended (including an interception for a touchdown), one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 16 contests during the 2016 season.
Near the end of the 2015 season, the Cardinals inked Bethel to a three-year, $15 million contract extension, seemingly with the knowledge that veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers was on the way out as a free agent. Both Powers and Tyrann Mathieu (torn ACL) missed time down the stretch, forcing Bethel into the starting lineup in six of the last seven contests (including playoffs). With 38 tackles and one interception during that stretch, Bethel impressed enough to be penciled into the starting corner spot opposite Patrick Peterson in the offseason. However, Bethel's story took a turn for the worse with April foot surgery, which held him out of the offseason program, was aggravated in early July, and contained him to a special teams role once Week 1 arrived. As the secondary took hits on the injury front, Bethel earned three starts over the final eight games -- Weeks 10, 16, and 17 -- in which he tallied 17 tackles and the pick-six. If the starting CB for most of the year, Marcus Cooper, returns after dabbling in unrestricted free agency, Bethel will have competition for a starting gig on this occasion.
Bethel was limited in practice throughout the week due to a minor foot issue, but he'll be able to suit up in week 12. He'll provide depth at cornerback behind Patrick Peterson and Marcus Cooper.
Bethel earned his first three defensive snaps of the season Monday versus the Jets.
Bethel has been bothered by lingering discomfort in his foot, which stems from offseason surgery and an aggravation in the lead-up to training camp. On the season, Bethel has been holding down his role as a special teams maven, including 19 of 24 on that arena Monday, but he was well enough (or the game was enough out of hand) that he picked up his first work with the defense. Despite the development, Bethel isn't a threat to Marcus Cooper's hold on the starting cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson.
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