With the 2015 season in the rearview mirror, the Arizona Cardinals have moved on to preparing for next season.
Arizona has 15 unrestricted and four restricted free agents who are set to hit the open market March 9. Over the next two weeks, I will take a detailed look at each position that is slated to have a free agent and what the likelihood is of those players returning in 2016.
Next up, safety.
2015 stats: Johnson -- Tied for the team-lead with five interceptions and had 61 tackles. Clemons -- Had five tackles last season in two stints with Arizona, including the final four games of the season. Jefferson -- Was the fourth-leading tackler with 78 along with two sacks and two interceptions. Swearinger -- had 19 tackles after joining the team before Week 12.
2015 salary: Johnson -- $1.8 million, Clemons -- $87,647, Jefferson -- $585,000, Swearinger -- $137,647.
Likelihood of returning: Johnson -- medium, Clemons -- medium, Jefferson -- high, Swearinger -- high
Why: With Johnson, the Cardinals will be influenced by a couple of things. First, how much money could he demand in free agency. If Arizona feels it’s too much, they’ll let Johnson go so he can pursue a good pay day. If it’s manageable, they’ll try to keep him. The second factor influencing Arizona’s decision to retain Johnson will be his age. He recently turned 30 so if the Cardinals want to go younger and give Tyrann Mathieu more of a long-term foundation in the secondary, the Cardinals will likely go a younger route through free agency and the draft. As long as Mathieu is hurt, Clemons has a chance to make the roster. He made the final roster last training camp but was placed on IR and later cut with an injury settlement. He was re-signed after Mathieu went down. Jefferson has emerged as one of the mainstays of the Cardinals’ talented secondary, leading the team in tackling in the playoffs. He added good weight during last offseason and expectations are that he’ll take another step to improve this offseason. Being restricted, the Cardinals can match any offer made to him. As long as it’s not outrageous, they might. Swearinger was a late-season addition but he impressed while he was in Arizona to the point where he could end up with a job here in the desert. But there’s one problem: He played well enough and is a big-enough name where another team might give him too high of an offer for Arizona to retain him.