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Justin Bethel's new contract extension with Cardinals still sinking in

ST. LOUIS – Being a multimillionaire is still sinking in for Arizona Cardinals defensive back Justin Bethel.

When he first signed his three-year extension worth $15 million -- with $9 million guaranteed and the potential to earn another $1.8 million in incentives -- on Saturday, a day before Arizona’s 27-3 win over the St. Louis Rams, it didn’t seem real.

Then the reality of the extension and the idea that he’ll be in Arizona long-term started settling in, Bethel said after the win, in which he had three tackles and two passes defensed.

Bethel never wanted to leave Arizona.

“They drafted me. I love the city, I love the weather – can’t beat it –and I love my teammates, especially in our secondary group,” Bethel said. “Being with these guys, it’s like being with your brothers.

“We enjoy being out there together. We enjoy practice. It puts a smile on your face to come out there and know, ‘I’m going to get to go out there and play with these guys and have fun with them, joke with them.’ And, you know, we’re close on the field and close off the field. That’s something I definitely want to be a part of.”

There were times earlier in the extension process when Bethel contemplated hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent in March. He believed he was in a good position to see what other teams would offer, having been to the last two Pro Bowls and one of the top special-teamers in the league while developing as a cornerback.

“But anything can happen in the free-agency market,” Bethel said. “You hear things and you kind of think like, ‘Well, maybe?’

“Truthfully I was just hoping to stay here. I wanted to stay here.”

Bethel was glad his future was figured out sooner rather than later. He’s signed until 2018, by which time he’ll be 28. He felt he was in an “awkward position” with the Cardinals because he’s not a good enough corner yet to demand cornerback money. Bethel made his second career cornerback start Sunday. He didn’t know what kind of contract he’d be offered, not just by Arizona but by any other team.

He believed the Cardinals took a chance on him by paying him that much with the hope and expectation that he’d pan out into a high-caliber corner.

“It showed they believe in me, that I can go out there and play the corner position,” Bethel said.

While he’s still basking in the glow of his new deal, Bethel knows exactly what the first things he’ll be doing are as soon as the money is deposited into his account.

“First thing is pay my tithe and offering to the church and then probably get a house,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been staying in an apartment the whole time I’ve been out here. Nothing big, something small. I live by myself. I ain’t got no kids. Get something small.

“Get something for me.”