The free agent pool of players who roam the defensive backfield looks to have gotten a little bit deeper:
I'm told Tony Jefferson will hit the free agent market. Expectation from league sources is $7M+ per season.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 17, 2017
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reports that Arizona Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson will test the free agent waters, adding that he could fetch a contract that would pay him more than $7 million per year. That would represent a significant pay raise for the 24-year-old safety, who made 74 tackles for an Arizona defense that ranked 14th in 2016.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jefferson graded out to be the league’s fifth-best safety with an 88.6 grade – even better than that of star safety Eric Berry (87.6), who could also hit the free agent market if the Kansas City Chiefs decide not to designate him as a Franchise player with one of the three available tags. For what it’s worth, the Franchise Tag number for safeties projects to be $11.7 million and you can check out all of those projections here.
The Bears are the kind of team who would be in the market for Jefferson’s services. He will play in 2017 in his age 25 season and has been a steady performer in each of his first four seasons with the Cardinals. Jefferson could add value in coverage where he ranked 43rd among safeties, but more so as a run defender where his 98.0 rating was the second best number for a safety.
Further, Jefferson could help provide stability to a position that has been more like a revolving door of failure for the Bears since they appeared in Super Bowl XLI.
The Bears secondary could use a total makeover in 2017 after ranking 30th in football, with several pieces that are aging or simply not producing at a high level.
Free agency officially opens up on March 9, though teams can begin negotiating with new players on March 7.