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Buc, Clemons and dollar linebacker

Deone Bucannon came along at the perfect time two years ago, when Daryl Washington got suspended and the Cardinals wanted someone quicker and rangier to play in the box -- as a linebacker -- than most linebackers. So they took their first-round pick, a safety, and in two seasons Bucannon has not only done well but has redefined in some ways what it means to be a front-seven defender in this league.

But Bucannon is not an outlier. Not on the Cardinals. As defensive coordinator James Bettcher continues to compose the defense, any question to how the Cards want to line up is underscored not only with Bucannon playing his spot but also because when the Cards go to the second unit, it is safety Chris Clemons who is playing the Bucannon role -- not a linebacker by trade.

Clemons, who at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds is a physical match for the 6-1, 220-pound Bucannon, has been around for the past couple of seasons. He was released early in the season after getting hurt, and then returned late with two games left and then played in the postseason.

Where guys are in the offseason isn't necessarily permanent -- if you recall, last offseason, Bucannon played true safety most of the time and Tyrann Mathieu was actually second-string -- but again, it goes to how much Bettcher and the Cardinals like their versatility on defense, especially in the secondary. They like safeties who can play corner if needed (Mathieu, Marqui Christian, Tyvon Branch) and they like safeties that can drop into the box. Or in the case of Bucannon, stay in the box.

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