The Arizona Cardinals will have some tough decisions to make in March when NFL free agency begins, especially with highly-coveted players Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson set for new deals.
In fact, the duo, who put together excellent 2016 seasons in Arizona, might be some of the most desired players on the market.
According to Danny Kelly of The Ringer, the defensive lineman and safety will be two of the best free agents available at their respective positions.
Kelly had high praise for Campbell’s disruptive game:
Campbell’s list of suitors will be long; he’s made his career manning two gaps as a five-technique (lining up on the outside shoulder of the tackle) on Arizona’s three-man front, but also lines up as a three-technique (on the outside shoulder of the guard) enough to be a nice fit on a four-man front. Whether he’s sitting back and taking on two gaps or shooting forward in a one-gap system, Campbell’s one of the most disruptive trench players in the league. In 2016, he registered 8.0 sacks, 56 pressures, six passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. It’s the kind of production you can rely on, too, as Campbell’s missed only two games in the past four years.
Even at age 30, Campbell is still quite productive. His eight sacks are the second most he’s had in a season, so it looks like he still has some gas in the tank. Moreover, his 6-foot-8 frame is always appealing for a defensive lineman.
Of course, his age could be a red flag for the Cardinals trying to re-sign him. Next season will be Campbell’s 10th in the NFL, so Arizona could be cautious about signing him to another long-term deal.
Kelly also thinks the market will treat Jefferson well:
Jefferson is an excellent run defender — he missed just five tackles on 98 attempts in 2016, as he led Arizona in tackles — and he improved significantly against the pass after slimming down in the offseason to increase explosiveness and speed. He held up in coverage on tight ends and running backs, so Arizona was able to keep him on the field against pretty much any offensive look. (He played over 86 percent of the Cardinals’ snaps in 2016, fourth most on the team.) He was effective as a blitzer as well, grabbing two sacks on the year, which tied him for third in the league among defensive backs. Jefferson’s a battle-tested, versatile defensive back that defensive coordinators can deploy in a variety of roles, and at 25 years old, he’s got room to improve.
Jefferson, who started the first 14 games of 2016 before a knee injury ended his season, will likely be handsomely rewarded for his career year. The 25-year-old looks like he’s on his way to a big payday after posting a career-high 92 tackles, with his 13 tackles for loss leading NFL defensive backs.
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