It was a surprise to many fans and people in the media when the Arizona Cardinals offered safety Tony Jefferson the low restricted free agent tender. He was surprised, too.
Jefferson, who is a restricted free agent and has spent three season with the Arizona Cardinals after making the team as an undrafted rookie, was a guest on theDoug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, and he talked about his situation in free agency.
"Throughout the season, my prior agent was telling me I would probably get the second round tender which is cool, so it kind of surprised me (when the low tender offer came)," He said. "But it is a business move and they (the team) has to do what they thing is best."
It has proven to be a smart business decision so far. The safety market was much softer than most expected. The second round tender would cost the Cardinals about $2.5 million, while the low tender is $1.67 million.
Jefferson said there have been "a bunch of phone calls," but the whole situation being a restricted free agent is "tricky."
Restricted free agents are free to negotiate with any team, but any offer Jefferson gets from somewhere else, the Cardinals have five days to match it. Jefferson says "some teams don't even mess with the whole restricted deal" and the word restricted definitely applies. "Being restricted, you definitely feel restricted," he said.
Jefferson isn't planning on going anywhere, though.
He has until April 22 to sign his tender, but it will likely come before that, as the team begins its offseason workouts on April 18, and he will not be able to participate if unsigned.
And it isn't like he is trying to leave the Cardinals.
"Who would want to leave Arizona, especially after we’re a game away from the Super Bowl," he said. "It’s not like I’m looking to get out, but at the same time, there’s a business aspect."
Jefferson knows he should be patient. If you have paid attention to his Twitter feed, you can tell he was disappointed he didn't get the higher tender. He also knows he is young and has already beaten the odds, entering his fourth season after not getting drafted. He also knows he can make even more money in a year because he will be an unrestricted free agent.
The business side of things does frustrate him, though.
"I play football, that’s what I like to do," he said. "That’s what I’m good at and I just wish it wasn’t so much business, but it is, so you’ve got to buy in according to that."
He understands the situation. He has a great opportunity here still. While he is projected to again be the team's third safety behind Tyvon Branch and Tyrann Mathieu, Jefferson will play an important role in 2016. Branch has a history of getting hurt. Mathieu is coming back from a second major knee surgery.
His long-term future might not be in Arizona, but he still has at least one year left here in the desert. He might be disappointed in his tender this year, but if he can put together another solid year, he might find himself very comfortable financially after the season is over.