Two key members of the Cardinals’ defense during the franchise’s mid-2010s resurgence, Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson are expected to move on from the team in free agency. At the prices the duo is expected to command, the Cardinals are likely going to thank both for their service and allow them to seek better offers on the UFA market, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports.
Both’s per-year price could creep into eight-figure territory. Now that Eric Berry is off the market, Jefferson is expected to be the top safety pursued. Campbell tops the interior defender contingent despite being 30. Somers hears Jefferson could command close to $10MM per year. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com agrees, noting that he’d be surprised based on what he’s heard at the Combine if Jefferson’s price was too far off that figure.
As for Campbell, Somers hears the defensive end will command more annually. Although he’s set to turn 31 and coming off a five-year deal, Campbell is entering free agency off of arguably his best year and will be an attractive commodity for both 3-4 and 4-3 teams looking to bolster their pass rush. Somers expects the 6-foot-8 talent to sign for more than the $11MM-per-year figure he did to stay in Arizona earlier this decade.
Instead, the Cardinals are planning to set their sights on more reasonable UFAs to retain, with Somers mentioning D.J. Swearinger and Jermaine Gresham fall into this category. A source informed Somers that the Cards making a push to re-sign Swearinger makes sense with Jefferson on his way out.
The Cardinals already authorized top-market deals for Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, so it’s natural that Jefferson would have to seek his second contract elsewhere. Arizona does not have big expenses on its defensive line but is expected to discuss a long-term deal with the recently franchise-tagged Chandler Jones in the coming months. Jones being nearly four years younger than Campbell made him a logical choice in this debate. Campbell ranked first among 3-4 defensive ends in the opinion of Pro Football Focus last season. Arizona holds just more than $17MM in cap space.
He and Jefferson rank at Nos. 6 and 8, respectively, on PFR’s top 50 free agents list.
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