Tony Jefferson signed his restricted free-agent tender from the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, the team's official site reports.
Offered the "low" tender at the outset of free agency, Jefferson could have been scooped up without the Cardinals receiving draft-pick compensation, but no organization decided to take the leap on the three-year pro. The development comes as a surprise after he ranked fourth on the team with 78 tackles, to which he added three forced fumbles, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), and two sacks. Although Arizona brought safety Tyvon Branch into the fold this offseason, Jefferson will likely take on a substantial role in the upcoming campaign due to Tyrann Mathieu's recovery from the second torn ACL of his career.
The Arizona Cardinals extended a contract to Tony Jefferson on Thursday, Darren Urban of the team's official site reports.
Jefferson made the most of his opportunities over the course of the 2015 season, contributing 78 tackles (58 solo), three forced fumbles, two interceptions (one pick-six), and two sacks to IDP causes. The Cardinals left themselves open to losing the safety for nothing in free agency, as any offer sheet that he signs and the team refuses to match won't return compensation in the form of draft picks due to his undrafted status. However, keeping Jefferson in house is likely a part of general manager Steve Keim's plan as insurance in case Tyrann Mathieu's recovery from a torn ACL is delayed and/or unrestricted free agent Rashad Johnson isn't retained.
Tony Jefferson enters the offseason as a restricted free agent.
An undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma in 2013, Jefferson has developed into a more than serviceable NFL safety. Despite earning 72 percent of the Arizona Cardinals ' defensive snaps, he racked up 78 tackles (58 solo), three forced fumbles, two interceptions (one pick-six), and two sacks in 16 regular season games. Late-season injuries in the secondary to Tyrann Mathieu (knee) and Rashad Johnson afforded Jefferson the opportunity for a full workload down the stretch, and he responded with at least eight tackles in each of the final three contests, including playoffs. Considering Johnson is an unrestricted free agent, Jefferson appears to be the logical in-house replacement to work next to Mathieu in 2016 and moving forward, if the seven-year veteran signs with another organization.
The combined absence of Rashad Johnson in Weeks 15 and 16 due to an ankle injury, and Tyrann Mathieu's ACL tear in Week 15, has thrust Jefferson into a starring role in the Cardinals' secondary. After earning 65 percent of the team's defensive snaps through Week 14, Jefferson hasn't missed a snap thereafter, while racking up 20 tackles (14 solo). When the Cardinals kick off the postseason on Jan. 16, Jefferson will again be manning free safety next to Johnson.
In a secondary loaded with depth, Jefferson earned 65 percent of the Cardinals' defensive snaps through Week 14. However, with Rashad Johnson sidelined due to an ankle injury Sunday, Jefferson was a mainstay throughout, missing no snaps on his way to the second-most tackles on the team (tied with Kevin Minter). The prospect of playing out the season sans Tyrann Mathieu (torn ACL) is now upon the unit, but Jefferson and Johnson will compose the starting safety spots going forward.
|P2||8/19/16||@ SD||9:00 pm|
|P3||8/28/16||@ HOU||4:00 pm|
|3||9/25/16||@ BUF||1:00 pm|
|5||10/6/16||@ SF||8:25 pm|
|8||10/30/16||@ CAR||4:25 pm|
|Bye: Week 9|
|11||11/20/16||@ MIN||1:00 pm|
|12||11/27/16||@ ATL||1:00 pm|
|14||12/11/16||@ MIA||1:00 pm|
|16||12/24/16||@ SEA||4:25 pm|
|17||1/1/17||@ LAR||4:25 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|
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