New Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea shakes the hand of team president Michael Bidwill Thursday after signing a three-year contract.
The Cardinals are losing a safety in Tony Jefferson, but are filling that hole quickly.
Safety Antoine Bethea, released by San Francisco earlier this week, agreed to a three-year contract with the Cards Thursday in the hours before free agency officially began. Because Bethea had been cut, he was free to sign elsewhere immediately.
"With the new regime (in San Francisco), sitting down with them and seeing the direction they wanted to
go, it was best for both parties, I asked for my release," Bethea said.
"Knowing what type of organization (the Cardinals are) and football team, the type of players they have, and of course being familiar with a number of coaches on the staff, seemed like it was a good fit for me."
Jefferson left to sign with Baltimore.
It was only the start of free agency for the Cardinals, who also re-signed center A.Q. Shipley. Multiple reports have the team zeroing in on veteran kicker Phil Dawson as well, with incumbent Chandler Catanzaro reaching free agency. Former (twice) linebacker Karlos Dansby told Fox Sports 910 he had an interest in returning to Arizona yet again. The Cards still have a number of their own free agents on the market as well.
The 32-year-old Bethea, played the last three seasons with the 49ers after eight years with the Colts, was in Indianapolis with current Cardinals coaches Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin and James Bettcher – the latter of which will be Bethea's new defensive coordinator. He will turn 33 in July.
Bettcher said Bethea is a good player, but emphasized he is also a good person and a leader. The locker
room chemistry and leadership is a point of emphasis for the Cardinals this offseason.
Bethea led the 49ers in tackles last season and had an interception. He has 19 interceptions in 162 career games.
"At this point in my career, I just want to win, get another ring," Bethea said. "I still got some good ball left in me."
At strong safety, he'll be an option as the Cardinals try to figure out their backend in the wake of free agency. Not only did Jefferson leave but fellow safety D.J. Swearinger is heading to Washington, posting on social media he wanted to "thank the Cardinals for all the memories and opportunities."
The team still has Tyrann Mathieu set to start in the secondary, and has 2016 free-agent signee Tyvon Branch as a starting option. Branch was a starter last season before groin injuries curtailed his season.
Bethea wasn't declaring himself a starter, saying he would come in to "play my part."
The Cardinals' defense is not only losing Jefferson but also starting defensive tackle Calais Campbell, who was to sign with the Jaguars.
Images of Antoine Bethea, the new safety for the Cardinals