TEMPE — Part of Jalen Thompson’s first weekend after his big contract extension was announced Friday wasn’t spent on anything too extravagant, it appears. Thompson went out to dinner with family members.
“Went and got some dinner. Just talked about everything and just chilled out,” Thompson said Monday after Arizona Cardinals practice.
There was probably a lot to talk about. And a lot of smiles and feelings of accomplishment all around the dinner table in celebration of what was reported as a three-year, $40 million contract extension with $24.5 million in guaranteed money.
Thompson, who led the team last season with 121 tackles, was entering the final year of his contract on a deal that was going to pay him $2.5 million. The 24-year-old safety from the Los Angeles area and Washington State beat the odds as a former fifth-round supplemental draft pick in 2019 and became the only player on an active NFL roster who entered the league through that draft.
Now he’s an established, highly paid NFL player getting ready to take the field this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium.
“I was pretty confident that it would come. Just one of those things. I had to just keep playing throughout the training camp, not really focusing on that (the contract), and just worrying about Kansas City,” Thompson said. “Doesn’t really change much, you know what I mean, still got that chip on my shoulder, and still going to go out there and do what I do.”
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury recalled how in 2019, Thompson didn’t get an offseason of rookie workouts since he wasn’t taken in the traditional NFL draft. But after a good training camp of picking up the defensive scheme and by midseason, playing a lot and eventually starting, Kingsbury said, Thompson had a chance to be special.
“It’s incredible. He’s everything you want in your organization from a work ethic standpoint. The way he practices, it’s 120 percent each and every day, each and every snap,” Kingsbury said of Thompson. “Whatever drill he’s doing, he’s going at it. … It’s just a tremendous story, and I couldn’t be happier or prouder for him.”
Last season, Thompson had 121 tackles, second-most among all NFL defensive backs. Thompson also had three interceptions, seven pass breakups and three tackles for loss. In 37 career games, he has 197 tackles, four interceptions and 11 broken-up passes.
He’s starting to be talked about on the same level as his teammate with whom he shares the field at safety, Pro Bowler Budda Baker. But Thompson isn’t about comparisons. His confidence has never wavered, and he felt even after coming out of college that everything would work out and he would get his opportunity to score a big payday.
“Now I’m kind of on the mindset to be the best safety I can be and to try to help these younger guys get better and bring those guys up with me as well,” Thompson said. “So just continuing to be a leader and continuing to stay on top of everything.”
That’s along the lines of the same advice he got from teammate Antonio Hamilton, who is resting and healing from burns suffered in a cooking accident that will keep the Cardinals cornerback from starting the season on the field.
“He was a little messed up after the whole burn incident or whatever. But yeah, he’s feeling good,” Thompson said of Hamilton. “He’s ready to get back whenever he can. He told me just, you know, make sure to bring those young guys up with me and make sure those guys are doing what they’ve got to do.”
Being able to focus on football and not the business side of it is welcomed, Thompson said.
“Heck yeah. That’s the biggest thing, just focusing down, you know, we’ve got a good game ahead of us, big game, and you know, we’ve got to be on our toes with these guys (the Chiefs), so should be pretty good.”