The Cardinals need to upgrade the roster after a poor 2018 season, and while the No. 1 overall pick awaits in April, first comes free agency. General Manager Steve Keim has significant cap space to use for the first time in his tenure and could be aggressive. We will take a look at each position group in the days leading up to free agency, which begins on March 13.
Free agent primer: Safety
Cap hit of players under contract for 2019 (via OverTheCap.com): Antoine Bethea ($6.4 million); D.J. Swearinger ($4.5 million); Budda Baker ($1.6 million); Rudy Ford ($680,048); Jonathan Owens ($499,000).
Scheduled free agents: Tre Boston
Images of notable safeties scheduled to hit the open market
Analysis: The Cardinals have some holes to fill at other positions but they are in good shape at safety. Budda Baker is a star and has shown the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. He can play in the slot, in the box or in center field depending on the game situation.
D.J. Swearinger was claimed off waivers at the end of last year and he is projected to be the other starter. While outspokenness has sometimes gotten Swearinger in hot water, there is no denying his talent. Antoine Bethea will be 35 in 2019 but he had a team-high 133 tackles along with three sacks last year. His cap hit is higher than preferred for a third safety. Ford is a special teams dynamo but did not make an impact defensively last year.
Boston signed right before training camp and put together a solid season. However, the addition of Swearinger could hinder the likelihood of his return. If the Cardinals pinpoint a safety that can cover the slot, they could target him in free agency. Otherwise, they look pretty set at the position and could focus their resources elsewhere.
Notable past free agent safety signings: Boston (2018); Bethea (2017); Tyvon Branch (2016); Yeremiah Bell (2013); James Sanders (2012); Hamza Abdullah (2009); Dexter Jackson (2003); Matt Darby (1996); Andre Waters (1994); Mike Zordich (1989).