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Arizona Cardinals Free Agency: Should The Team Keep A.J. Jefferson?

Another day, another landslide in the voting for a soon-to-be Arizona Cardinals free agent. 87% of you voted that the team should keep newcomer Brandon Williams on the roster, even though he has dealt with multiple knee injuries over the past few seasons. Williams certainly is an interesting prospect as an outside linebacker and could bring some much needed pass rushing help, but it is unknown if he will be able to stay healthy.

A.J. Jefferson is the next player we will examine for today. Jefferson certainly exceeded expectations of everyone after he came out of training camp as one of the starting cornerbacks, playing across from the rookie, Patrick Peterson. He had been on the team in 2010 coming out of Fresno State, so the coaches, mainly head coach Ken Whisenhunt, did see some of his ability and decided to give him a shot. Let's see how he did after the jump.

Jefferson certainly had an up and down year at times in 2011. He played rather well for the first few games of the season, especially against the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings (even though that game was a blowout). Pro Football Focus gave him high grades both in pass coverage and run defense for those two games and it looked as if the Cardinals had found a diamond in the rough to be their answer at the corner.

Unfortunately, the Steelers had to come to town and ruin everything. That game marked the first of two consecutive performances where Jefferson just didn't play too well. Ben Roethlisberger targeted him on ten different occassions that game and Jefferson allowed eight catches. During the next week, former Cardinal Anquan Boldin showed some of his veteran prowess and was able to make Jefferson look bad yet again. A.J. never saw the field as a starter for the rest of the season after that game.

In all, Jefferson allowed 62 receptions on 101 targets and two touchdowns. He did have one interception and ten pass defended on the season, but he may be been a bit overwhelmed during his first season as a member of the corner rotation.

So taking your prior knowledge of Jefferson and coupling it with these stats, I'll ask you: should the team retain him for next season? The Cardinals do own his exclusive rights, meaning that if they make him an offer, he will be unable to sign with any other team and will virtually be forced to accept it.

In my eyes, I think it would highly benefit the team to keep him on board. He is an extremely athletic and gifted young player and with some time and focus, I think he can certainly make a positive contribution to this football organization week in and week out. With more experience, other teams will not look to throw the ball his way as much.

What do you think? Should the Arizona Cardinals re-sign A.J. Jefferson? Tell us in the comments section below and don't forget to vote in the poll.

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