In the last few years, Tony Jefferson has manned the strong safety position, and unsurprisingly, it could be a huge question mark going forward
In the picture above, you see Tony Jefferson getting pushed down, is Tony a good enough strong safety? I think Jefferson is plenty capable as a starter, but questions arising about his skills as a safety started back in March. It started when the Arizona Cardinals tendered Tony a lackluster tender to begin free agency. Why did other teams not take advantage of such a low tender?
Could it be because they are waiting for the 2017 offseason, when Tony becomes an unrestricted free agent? I think that’s entirely possible. My thesis is more along sadder possibilities. I think that Jefferson is a limited athlete, has a hard time playing over the top of receivers, and therefore makes him a 2 down player.
He is still an unbelievable player for what the Cardinals got for him, considering he was undrafted in the 2013 draft after forgoing his senior season at Oklahoma, and has consistently made the most of his opportunities.
Jefferson will probably still be the starting strong safety for the Cardinals, and that’s completely fine. I still think that strong safety is a weak spot for the Cards as training camp approaches, as it wasn’t a very strong class to begin with. Is it weaker then the opposite cornerback of Patrick Peterson? Nope.
There are some options if the Cardinals don’t want to roll the dice again on Jefferson, to me, they are intriguing.
- D.J. Swearinger: D.J. came in for the Cardinals halfway through the 2016 season, and seemed like a great waiver-wire pickup by Steve Keim. Swearinger is not the greatest cover safety, but he does deliver a bigger pop for crossing receivers. If you’re going to gamble on a safety, I think D.J. is a great option.
- Tyvon Branch: This is more strange then you would think. When Branch was signed, he was brought in to be the safety who could do almost anything that Tyrann Mathieu could do. To put Branch at the strong safety, a position he played in Oakland, it’s just not what the Cardinals should think about. He’s a good slot safety, just not a strong side helper.
- Marqui Christian: I have never seen Bruce Arians start a rookie on the back end, as even All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu didn’t get the start until week 2 of the 2013 season. I think the stage is too bright for Christian at this stage of his career, but the big-hitting safety could make big enough waves to become something special for the Cardinals.
Another option is a Steve Keim training camp addition: Sean Richardson, Jaiquawn Jarrett, James Ihedigbo, and the very much retired Charles Woodson are all available.
The Cardinals can’t just be looking at this year for strong safety help though, as this is the final year that both Tony and D.J. are under their current deals. The Cardinals need to think about the future, it seems like it’s Tony Jefferson’s job to lose, and I can’t wait to see what happens.