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Report: Arizona Cardinals not expected to keep Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s free agent frenzy begins this week, and while the Seattle Seahawks really don’t have anyone vitally important on the market, it’s a different story for the Arizona Cardinals, who for now are Seattle’s biggest rivals in the NFC West. Arizona has several defensive starters set to enter free agency, of which veteran defensive tackle Calais Campbell and strong safety Tony Jefferson are the two biggest names on the list.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reported on Sunday that it is unlikely we’ll see the Cards retain either Campbell or Jefferson, which would be big blows to their otherwise formidable defense.

“Multiple outlets reported Sunday that Jefferson’s new contract could average $7 million. One source close to the situation, however, believes that number could be closer to $10 million.

Campbell is likely to receive a more lucrative contract, at least in term of average per year, than the $11-million-per-year deal he signed with the Cardinals in 2012.

At those prices, the Cardinals are expected to thank the players for their service and part ways.”

Campbell was drafted by Arizona in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft and earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2014 and 2016. Of his 56.5 career sacks, 11.5 have come against the Seahawks, including 5.5 on Russell Wilson (all at CenturyLink Field). He’s on the wrong side of 30 but has consistently been one of the best interior linemen in the NFL, and you can definitely bank on several teams to go after his services. Maybe Russell Wilson will do a little more recruiting on behalf of Pete Carroll.

Jefferson is coming off a career year in which he made 14 starts, recorded 96 tackles (78 solo), forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles, was credited with five passes defensed, and notched two sacks in Arizona’s blitz-happy scheme. The UDFA out of Oklahoma is excellent in run support and was listed 84th in Pro Football Focus’ top 101 players from the 2016 NFL season. The New York Jets have been listed as a potential suitor, and their secondary is in desperate need of an overhaul.

Other defensive free agents for Arizona include hard-hitting safety D.J. Swearinger (who will probably be re-signed with Jefferson likely out), linebackers Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor, aging defensive tackle Frostee Rucker, and cornerback Marcus Cooper.