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Free Agency Primer 2018: Safety

Veteran Tyvon Branch set to hit the open market

The Cardinals are embarking on a new era under Steve Wilks. In the ensuing months, they will identify their new starting quarterback and fill other positions of need. The first crack at re-shaping the roster will come in free agency, which begins on Wednesday. This is the final positional primer as the new league year beckons.

Free agent primer:Safety

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

Cap hit of players under contract for 2018 (via Bethea ($3.82 million); Budda Baker ($1.55 million); Rudy Ford ($590,048); Harlan Miller ($555,000)

Scheduled free agents: Tyvon Branch

Need: Low

Images of some of the more notable safeties scheduled to hit the open market

Analysis: The Cardinals lost key safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger in free agency a year ago but didn't skip a beat. Bethea proved to be a nice signing in free agency as he finished with a team-best five interceptions, and Baker was a great second-round find in the draft. Ford was a key special teams player as a rookie and hopes to find an increased role in 2018. Miller could again battle for a roster spot.

The big question at this position centers on Mathieu. He said last week that the Cardinals asked him to take a pay cut, and it is unclear whether he is willing to do so. A resolution will need to come by Wednesday, when a chunk of money in Mathieu's contract becomes guaranteed.

"I think, obviously, in the next week or so we’ll have to make a decision," Mathieu said on Saturday. "We'll all know exactly what's going on." (UPDATE: Mathieu was released on Wednesday.)

Branch, the lone safety scheduled to hit free agency, played extremely well for nine games but tore his ACL against the Seahawks. Branch proved in 2017 he could still perform at a high level, but has only played in 36 games the past five years and will be 32 years old next season.

The Cardinals relied heavily on three safeties the past several years and defensive backs coach David Merritt said that will likely be the case again in 2018. The group as currently constructed is one of the most talented positions on the team.

Notable past free agent safety signings: Bethea (2017); Branch (2016); 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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