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Tony Jefferson offered low restricted free agent tender by Arizona Cardinals

The team can match any contract offer, but will get no compensation if they choose not to.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals made one of their first moves in NFL free agency. They have offered restricted free agent safety Tony Jefferson the lowest tender offer available -- the right of first refusal tender. It means he can take any offer from any team once the new league year begins, but  the Cardinals can match it and keep him a member of the Cardinals. It also means if no one signs him, he will be on a one-year contract for Arizona at $1.67 million.

It comes as bit of a surprise. Many, including myself, thought the Cardinals would have offered him the second round tender. It would pay him $2.5 million and the Cardinals would get a second round pick.

Jefferson made the team in 2013 as an undrafted rookie. has played in every game over the last three seasons, starting 17. In 2015, he had 75 tackles, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two sacks, three forced fumbles and five passes defensed.

The move is a curious one for the Cardinals. A source told Seth Cox Jefferson is not in the Cardinals' long-term plans.

Head coach Bruce Arians said after the season the team would like to add length and speed to the cornerback and safety positions. Since Tyrann Mathieu isn't going anywhere and Deone Bucannon is going to continue to play linebacker, that tells you Rashad Johnson (another free agent) and Jefferson might not return.

Of course, perhaps the Cardinals simply have a beat on Jefferson's value in the league and don't want to pay him more than that. After all, they can still match any offer he gets. And if he doesn't get any offers, he would play out 2016 making roughly as much as he did his first three seasons combined and get a chance in free agency next year.