Singer Andy Williams may consider this the most wonderful time of the year, but it's a bit more complicated than that for Tre Boston.
The veteran safety is two games away from wrapping up his first season with the Cardinals, which puts him on the precipice of a return to free agency – which was not a fun trek last offseason.
Boston finished 2017 with 79 tackles and five interceptions for the Chargers and, at 25 years old, expected to get a lucrative long-term deal. Instead of a bidding war, it was radio silence.
"I didn't have any offers," Boston said. "Literally no offers all offseason."
On the eve of training camp, Boston finally agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Cardinals. The entire safety class outside of Tyrann Mathieu – who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Texans – had trouble cashing in, as established safeties like Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro received similarly tepid interest.
Reid, Vaccaro and Boston have all been outspoken about racial inequality and Boston intimated it affected their market.
"You're talking about guys who thought they were going to get paid $7, $8, $9, $10 (million) last year get paid $1 million," Boston said. "And people just sit back and (say), 'It's just the market.' One-million-dollar players aren't even your best special-teams players. I don't think people really got that, what they were doing (to) us."
Boston disagrees with the notion that safeties are worth less than in the past.
"Would you tell me this league is going more toward a 4-3, more linebackers, or would you say safeties are valuable?" Boston said. "Almost every team runs a three-safety scheme now. So, no. I love that they played that off last year. They really got the people, man. Naw. We're not devalued at all."
Boston, Vaccaro, Reid and Mathieu are all scheduled to hit free agency again this offseason, as are Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Lamarcus Joyner and Adrian Amos. While some of the players could re-sign, it looks like a strong safety class.
Boston has followed up last year's solid campaign with another one. He has 75 tackles and leads the team with three interceptions and nine passes defensed despite missing a pair of games due to injury.
"He's been a tremendous leader on that side of the ball," coach Steve Wilks said. "The production has been consistent, and he's another voice in that locker room delivering the message."
Boston is hoping it's a different market in 2018.
"I'm going to sit and I'm going to wait," Boston said. "I'm going to allow my agent to do all the talking we need to do. I think around the league I've gained my respect with teams. It's all about how they want to go about business. Are we valued or are we not?
"I'm going to be right here until free agency hits. The Cardinals have the first chance, and if nothing goes down, then, hey, I've got to test the waters again like I did last year. We'll test it with a bigger class, a better class. ... It's going to be an interesting one. There's a lot of guys – vocal guys. A lot of alpha dogs in that group. I'd love to see what (teams) do with us."
PETERSON, GOLDEN QUESTIONABLE FOR RAMS GAME
Defensive end Markus Golden (ankle) and cornerback Patrick Peterson (illness) missed practice on Friday. Both players are listed as questionable for Sunday, as are safety Rudy Ford (ribs), defensive tackle Rodney Gunter (foot), tackle Will Holden (shoulder), tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (illness) and wide receiver J.J. Nelson (illness).
Rams running back Todd Gurley (knee) is questionable, as is running back Justin Davis (shoulder).
Images of past matchups between the Cardinals and this week's opponent, the Los Angeles Rams