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Free Agency Primer 2016: Safety

Posted Mar 6, 2016

Position could have movement as Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson prepare to test market

The Cardinals’ front office is surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to complement a core which went 13-3 last season and advanced to the NFC Championship game. Free agency begins on March 9, and we’ll break down the team’s needs at each position leading up to the signing period.

More free agent analysis: TE I RB I QB I WR I OL I ST I LB I DL

Free agent primer: Safety

Cap numbers of players under contract for 2016: Tyrann Mathieu ($1.71 million); Chris Clemons ($600,000); Durell Eskridge ($450,000); Brandon Person ($450,000); Ty Zimmerman ($450,000)

Scheduled free agents: Rashad Johnson; Tony Jefferson (restricted); D.J. Swearinger (restricted)

Need: High

Analysis: Deep in recent years, safety is -- at least in its current state – a position of need heading into free agency. D.J. Swearinger was tendered an offer as a restricted free agent, so it’s highly probable he returns. Chris Clemons was re-signed in the offseason and figures to again be a depth piece and special teams player. Tyrann Mathieu will also be back, although he is coming off a torn ACL and may not be the dynamic player of last year right away.

The biggest questions surround Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson. Johnson is an unrestricted free agent who has said his preference is to remain with the team, but at age 30 is on the backside of his career. He has been a valuable contributor for several seasons, but if the Cardinals want to get younger/faster or Johnson finds a better deal elsewhere, it could mark the end of the union. Jefferson is a restricted free agent, and the Cardinals will have the opportunity to match any contract offer he receives. The odds still seem good he returns to the Cardinals, but the reported right-of-first-refusal tender wouldn’t give them any compensation if he leaves, which might pique the interest of some other teams.

If Johnson and/or Jefferson depart, the Cardinals could consider a free-agent option to pair with Mathieu at starter. Deone Bucannon has officially been moved to linebacker, so the safety position is thinner now than it has been for some time. There are a lot of moving parts, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Notable past free agent S signings by the Cardinals: Yeremiah Bell (2013); James Sanders (2012); Hamza Abdullah (2009); Dexter Jackson (2003); Matt Darby (1996); Andre Waters (1994); Mike Zordich (1989).

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