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There is a famous gif of Bruce Arians whipping his head around in surprise when a Authentic Patrick Peterson Jersey touchdown was taken off the board in the 2015 playoffs.

Authentic Devon Kennard Jersey channeled that reaction in the middle of March, when word leaked that the Cardinals were trading for superstar Authentic DeAndre Hopkins Jersey.

“To be honest, I couldn’t believe it,” said the veteran outside linebacker, who agreed to a deal with the Cardinals a few days later. “I was like, ‘How the heck did that happen?'”

The addition of Hopkins was the opening salvo in an encouraging start to the league year for Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim. Kennard, defensive tackle Authentic Jordan Phillips Jersey and inside linebacker Authentic DeVondre Campbell Jersey were subsequently added in free agency, as the roster’s four glaring needs were quickly filled with known quantities.

Pro Football Focus has the Cardinals atop their list of most improved teams this offseason, while several analysts at ESPN lauded Keim for his decisions.

“I feel very good (about the roster),” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said. “There’s obviously a lot more work to be done. The draft will be an important part of our addition of player talent. And then it always seems like, after the draft, there are always some late signings as we get closer to camp. So there are still a few more steps as we get closer, but I like on paper how it’s come together.”

Outside linebacker Authentic Chandler Jones Jersey arrived in Arizona heading into the 2016 season, when expectations were sky-high. The team didn’t live up to them that year and hasn’t had a winning season since, but his eagerness for 2020 is matching the outside vibe of raised expectations.

“I’m excited, honestly,” Jones said on ‘On The Fly’ with Lisa Matthews. “I believe in our front office and what they’re doing. As you can see, what we look like right now looks amazing, and we still have a whole draft ahead.”

The Cardinals began to find their bearings at the end of 2019, winning two of their final three games while playing efficiently on both sides of the ball. Coach Kliff Kingsbury proved he was not in over his head at the NFL level, and the pain of 2018 slowly shifted to hope moving forward.

“I think it’s a young team with a lot of opportunity,” Kennard said. “I like what coach Kingsbury is doing here, and I’m excited about the direction of the program, and what we’ll be able to accomplish this year.”

Even though the Cardinals only won five games a season ago, there is momentum because of the roster upgrades, the expected maturation of quarterback Authentic Kyler Murray Jersey and the return of key cogs like Authentic Larry Fitzgerald Jersey, Authentic D.J. Humphries Jersey and Authentic Kenyan Drake Jersey.

“We’re bringing all of these pieces together, and it’s an awesome opportunity for us, and it puts us in position to (have a winning season),” quarterback Authentic Brett Hundley Jersey said. “Keim is doing an awesome job bringing all these pieces together, but at the same time, we have to go out there and execute. We can have the best roster that looks good, but if we if don’t’ execute, there’s really nothing to it.”

It’s easy to get out over your skiis during the offseason, when optimism runs rampant. That’s why Hundley cautions that there are still obstacles, and that the process can take time.

“We want to win the Super Bowl,” Hundley said. “That’s everybody’s goal. But at the same time, we have to understand that it’s a young offense. It’s still a young coaching staff. It’s still a young mesh of players coming together, and we’re building. Rather than understanding we’re already there, we’re still building, and we’re trying to put everything together.”

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The Cardinals are hoping for a major turnaround in 2020 behind quarterback Kyler Murray, but the roster still needs to be upgraded. General Manager Steve Keim has some cap space this offseason and will aim to plug holes on both sides of the ball. We will break down each position group leading up to free agency, which begins with the legal tampering period on Monday, March 16.

Free agent primer: Safety

Other positional primers: LB I WR I DL I QB I CB I TE I RB I ST I OL

Cap hit of players under contract for 2020 (via OverTheCap.com): Budda Baker ($2.17 million); Deionte Thompson ($672,452); Jalen Thompson ($670,730).

Scheduled free agents: Chris Banjo; Charles Washington (restricted).

Need: Medium

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Analysis: Authentic Budda Baker Jersey made the Pro Bowl in 2019 and returns to anchor the position group. Authentic Jalen Thompson Jersey took over as the other starting safety following the early-season release of D.J. Swearinger and seemed to settle in nicely to the role. If the Cardinals believe the fifth-round supplemental draft selection showed enough to stick in that spot, they won’t need to be too active in free agency.

Fellow fifth-rounder Authentic Deionte Thompson Jersey didn’t have as much of an impact as a rookie and will aim to find his niche in 2020. Chris Banjo is an impending free agent and could be an option to return both as a key special teams piece and a backup safety. Charles Washington was another special teams ace who will be a restricted free agent.

If the Cardinals want to add another high-profile safety to the mix, some of the bigger names set to hit the market include Anthony Harris, Justin Simmons, Jimmie Ward and Devin McCourty. Tony Jefferson is currently a free agent after the Ravens released him, but the former Cardinal is recovering from a torn ACL.

If the Cardinals prefer Jalen Thompson to be their third safety in 2020, they could be in the market for a starter. If they are comfortable with his play as a rookie, depth would be the only need at the position.

Notable past free agent safety signings: Tre Boston (2018); Antoine Bethea (2017); Tyvon Branch (2016); Yeremiah Bell (2013); James Sanders (2012); Hamza Abdullah (2009); Dexter Jackson (2003); Matt Darby (1996); Andre Waters (1994); Mike Zordich (1989).

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Let’s take a look at the Arizona Cardinals’ roster position by position as we near the NFL free agency period that can lead to signing beginning on Wednesday, March 18, at 1 p.m.

At defensive back, reinforcements are incoming. But improvement needs to be drastic.

The basics
Players under contract: S Budda Baker, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Robert Alford, DB Byron Murphy, S Jalen Thompson, S Deionte Thompson, CB Chris Jones, CB Jalen Davis, CB Andre Chachere, CB Authentic Sojourn Shelton Jersey (futures), CB Authentic Duke Thomas Jersey (futures)

Free agents: CB Kevin Peterson (restricted), CB Brandon Williams, S Chris Banjo, S Charles Washington (restricted)

What we know
Let us not review the Arizona Cardinals’ league-worst pass defense for the umpteenth time. It was bad — very bad.

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Now that’s out of the way, and we can explain why it was bad and why Arizona might feel like it can get better. Patrick Peterson was suspended for six games and didn’t click back into Pro Bowl form until the final three games. Robert Alford, who was supposed to be the Cardinals’ long-term No. 2 corner, got hurt and missed the entire season after arguably being one of the best defensive players in training camp.

If they’re healthy, throw second-year pro Byron Murphy in the slot, and there’s good talent to work with. Fellow cornerback Chris Jones held up well in his first year of NFL action and Kevin Peterson, if he’s brought back, showed signs he can fill in as nice depth as well.

Big question: Is there enough S depth to significantly improve?
It seems there’s enough depth to survive even an injury or two at cornerback. Murphy didn’t exactly get better as the season went on as teams more and more went at him while he was outside. But he should be more prepared in his sophomore year, whether he’s forced to play multiple positions and especially if he can stick inside where Arizona feels he’s best suited.

Safety is where the concerns lie. Backup Josh Shaw was the No. 2 in camp but got hurt before finding himself in an NFL betting scandal. That, combined with veteran D.J. Swearinger getting waived midseason, allowed young players like safety Jalen Thompson to gain experience. The supplemental draft pick flashed, posting two of his three best PFF-graded games in the final three weeks of the year.

Fellow rookie Deionte Thompson, a fifth-round pick, could provide depth behind him, but there’s a chance Arizona can look at the free agent market to bolster the safety group led by Pro Bowler Budda Baker.

Anthony Harris, Justin Simmons, Jimmie Ward, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vonn Bell, Devin McCourty and Damarious Randall are among the expensive-to-second-tier free agent safeties who will hit the market. Like the Cardinals did two years ago with a late signing of safety Tre Boston, however, the positional value doesn’t match the financial desires of the players. There’s a chance to add depth here later in free agency to get a capable player on a smaller deal.

The Cardinals, after all, likely want to invest in Baker’s future beyond 2020, when his rookie deal comes to an end. Considering his rise, that might be pricey.

So could an extension for Peterson if Arizona locks him in contractually before 2020 or wants to re-enter negotiations after seeing if he’s still got it in his 10th NFL season.

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The Cardinals are hoping for a major turnaround in 2020 behind quarterback Kyler Murray, but the roster still needs to be upgraded. General Manager Steve Keim has some cap space this offseason and will aim to plug holes on both sides of the ball. We will break down each position group leading up to free agency, which begins with the legal tampering period on Monday, March 16.

Free agent primer: Cornerback

Other positional primers: LB I WR I DL I QB I TE I S I RB I ST I OL

Cap hit of players under contract for 2020 (via OverTheCap.com): Patrick Peterson ($13.18 million); Robert Alford ($7.5 million); Byron Murphy($1.82 million); Chris Jones ($660,000); Jalen Davis ($660,000); Authentic Andre Chachere Jersey ($510,000).

Scheduled free agents: Kevin Peterson (restricted); Brandon Williams.

Need: Low

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Analysis: The Cardinals were one of the worst teams in the NFL against the pass last season, which would normally point to a reboot in the secondary, but that might not be the case. Authentic Patrick Peterson Jersey missed the first six games of the season and was subpar upon his return, but improved mightily down the stretch. If Peterson is back to his Pro Bowl form, the Cardinals have a shutdown corner on one side of the field.

Authentic Robert Alford Jersey signed a multi-year deal in free agency last offseason and looked worthy of it in training camp, but broke his leg in a collision with Damiere Byrd and missed the whole season. If he has a clean bill of health heading into 2020, Alford should slide in to the other outside cornerback spot.

Authentic Byron Murphy Jersey had some issues as a rookie but will be counted on to settle in at slot corner with Alford on the outside. Much is expected of the No. 33 overall pick from last year’s draft. If the three top spots are filled as projected, the Cardinals wouldn’t have a dire need for another cornerback in free agency.

While big names like Byron Jones and Chris Harris are impending free agents, the signing of a marquee player seems unlikely unless there is a corresponding move at the position.

The Cardinals could be in search of depth, whether that’s bringing back restricted free agent Kevin Peterson or looking at other options. Authentic Chris Jones Jersey will compete for one of the backup roles, while Authentic Jalen Davis Jersey and Andre Chachere hope to make an offseason impression.

Notable past free agent cornerback signings: Alford (2019); Bené Benwikere (2018); Tramon Williams (2017); Antonio Cromartie (2014); Jerraud Powers (2013); Antoine Cason (2013); William Gay (2012); Bryant McFadden (2009); Roderick Hood (2007); Ralph Brown (2007); David Macklin (2004); Duane Starks (2002).

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After a breakout year with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, inside linebacker Joe Walker is on the move. He will not be leaving the NFC West, however, as he reportedly agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year deal per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Tom Pelissero

@TomPelissero
The #49ers are signing LB Authentic Joe Walker Jersey to a one-year deal, source said. Walker took a first-round pick’s job last year, started 11 games and had 65 tackles for the #Cardinals. Now, he stays in the NFC West.

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Walker overtook Haason Reddick for a starting inside linebacker position based on snap counts, playing 40 compared to Reddick’s 36 in a 31-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 8 last season. Then, on Oct. 29, Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Walker “earned” the right to start at the position alongside Jordan Hicks in the team’s base 3-4 defense over the former first-round pick Reddick, who was subsequently converted to outside linebacker.

The Cardinals acquired Walker on Sept. 19, 2018, signing him from the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad. After appearing in 14 games with no starts in Arizona that year, Walker exceeded expectations in 2019 playing in all 16 games and starting 11. He finished the year with 63 tackles (38 solo), five tackles for loss, one quarterback hit and one forced fumble. He also had seven special teams tackles (five solo) in a familiar role as a core member of that unit.

Walker played in 537 defensive snaps (47.4 percent) and 324 special teams snaps (70.43 percent) of the Cardinals total plays last season. He made $645,000 on his contract with the Cardinals last year per OverTheCap.com.

After Arizona agreed to terms with inside linebacker Authentic DeVondre Campbell Jersey (Atlanta Falcons), Walker wasn’t a priority. However, the franchise would have gained an important depth piece had they re-signed him. Now, the 49ers acquire a capable player with experience from a division rival.

We will see if that decision haunts the Cardinals next season. Other inside linebackers on the depth chart at the end of the season were Authentic Dennis Gardeck Jersey, Ezekiel Turner and Authentic Keishawn Bierria Jersey.

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The NFL’s new league year technically doesn’t begin until Wednesday when trades and free-agency signings become official, but the Cardinals have already filled two of their biggest needs this offseason in the past two days alone.

On Monday, word came about the blockbuster trade that sent running back David Johnson to the Texans in exchange for superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a deal involving three draft picks. On Tuesday, the Cardinals signed Bills free-agent defensive tackle Authentic Jordan Phillips Jersey, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the deal for Phillips is worth $30 million over three years.

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Also on Tuesday, the Cardinals announced they have offered an exclusive rights tender to right tackle Justin Murray and, as previously reported, tendered a one-year qualifying offer to restricted free agent kicker Zane Gonzalez.

Exclusive rights free agents – players with two years or fewer NFL experience – who are offered tenders such as Murray are essentially bound to their teams. They can’t negotiate with other teams and must sign the contract offer or sit out the season. Murray, the starter 12 games at right tackle last season, appeared in 14 games overall, and the Cardinals have said they’d be content if he returns as a started again in 2020.

Wide receiver, defensive tackle and right tackle were three key positions the Cardinals were targeting to upgrade the roster.

They were in search of a No.1 wideout who could play on the outside and be a regular target for second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. In sending Johnson, their second-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick in 2021 to Houston, the Cardinals stole one of the best receivers in the league by acquiring Hopkins, along with a fourth-round pick in 2020.

Hopkins, 27, is a three-time, first-team All-Pro whose 632 career receptions in his first seven seasons are tied with Antonio Brown for the second-most in NFL history over that span. He immediately lifts the Cardinals’ offense to greater heights and will pair with future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and third-year pro Christian Kirk to form an ideal three-wide receiver set.

In adding the 6-foot-6, 341-pound Phillips, the Cardinals also improved their situation on the defensive line, which had become perilous. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the former first-round pick, was released last summer along with defensive end Darius Philon, a free-agent addition who was expected to be reliable starter.

Meanwhile, a group of four other defensive linemen led by Rodney Gunter are set to hit free agency. Arizona might try to bring one or some of them back, but Phillips, who is coming off a career season with the Bills, will slide into a starting role next to veteran nose tackle Corey Peters with second-year pro Zach Allen a likely starter at defensive end.

Phillips, originally a second-round pick out of Oklahoma by the Dolphins in 2015, set career highs in 2019 with 31 tackles, 9½ sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits. He hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons and in 76 career games overall, has 113 tackles, 15 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.

He joined the Bills five weeks into the 2018 season after being placed on waivers by the Dolphins, for whom he played his first three and a half years. His signing won’t become official until Wednesday.

Other defensive linemen presently under contract with the Cardinals include nose tackle Authentic Miles Brown Jersey and ends Authentic Kylie Fitts Jersey, Authentic Michael Dogbe Jersey and Authentic Lyndon Johnson Jersey, who was signed to a futures deal that also won’t become official until Wednesday.

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Besides Gunter, Arizona’s other defensive linemen set to hit free agency are Jonathan Bullard, Caraun Reid, Clinton McDonald and Zach Kerr.

With Hopkins and Phillips on board, the Cardinals likely won’t be targeting a receiver or defensive lineman with the No.8 overall pick in next month’s draft. They’ll be looking for help along the offensive line, outside and inside linebacker, and probably at safety and can use free agency and the draft to find it.

Meanwhile, the team also took steps to help ensure the return of running back Kenyan Drake by placing the transition tag on him on Monday. It allows the team to match any offer Drake may field on the open market, although it is Arizona’s hope to sign him to a multi-year deal, especially after trading away Johnson.

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As the second week of free agency got underway, the Cardinals continued to fill out the roster by bringing back a pair of their own free agents Monday.

The team agreed to one-year deals with defensive lineman Authentic Jonathan Bullard Jersey and safety/special teamer Authentic Chris Banjo Jersey, adding to depth on the defense.

Bullard, claimed on waivers after being released by the Bears after the preseason, played in nine games, starting six. He totaled 22 tackles and 1½ sacks. Banjo, signed as a free agent in late September, played in 13 games mostly on special teams. He did find a limited defensive role late in the season, with 42 defensive snaps total.

Keeping the 26-year-old Bullard, a 2016 third-round pick of Chicago, was necessary as the Cards try to fill out the defensive line. They signed free agent Jordan Phillips from the Bills last week to team with Authentic Corey Peters Jersey up front. The Cardinals also have 2019 third-round pick Authentic Zach Allen Jersey, who is coming back from a neck injury in his rookie season, and fellow second-year players Authentic Michael Dogbe Jersey and Authentic Miles Brown Jersey.

The 30-year-old Banjo, a one-time undrafted free agent, played for the Packers and Saints before New Orleans released him last season.

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The Cardinals are retaining another couple of depth pieces to the roster, agreeing Tuesday to one-year deals with offensive lineman Authentic Max Garcia Jersey and safety/special teamer Authentic Charles Washington Jersey.

Garcia,a free-agent signee in 2019, was coming off an ACL tear and spent the first part of the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He ended up appearing in seven games, but only played 30 snaps, all on special teams.

He has significant experience on the offensive line, having starting two full seasons when he played for the Broncos in 2016 and 2017.

The Cards are still building up the depth on the line — Garcia is the 10th offensive lineman currently on the roster, behind starters Authentic D.J. Humphries Jersey, Authentic Justin Pugh Jersey, Authentic Mason Cole Jersey, Authentic J.R. Sweezy Jersey and Authentic Justin Murray Jersey, along with Authentic Lamont Gaillard Jersey, Authentic Brett Toth Jersey, Authentic Joshua Miles Jersey and Authentic Sam Jones Jersey.

The Cardinals also are expected to use draft capital on the offensive line, including a potential starting right tackle with the No. 8 pick overall.

Washington was claimed off waivers from the Lions following final preseason cuts in 2019. In 12 games, Washington did not play a defensive snap but logged 212 snaps on special teams. He is entering his fourth season in the NFL.

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METAIRIE, La. — Michael Thomas’ 274 catches over the past two years? Remarkable, ridiculous, unprecedented.

The fact that no other New Orleans Saints wide receiver has more than 47 catches combined over the past two seasons? Well, that’s a problem.

The Saints scored by adding pass-catching tight end Jared Cook in free agency last year. But they haven’t been so lucky at wide receiver — despite kicking the tires on guys like Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Cameron Meredith over the past two years and using a third-round draft pick on Tre’Quan Smith in 2018.

This is the year they need to fix that.

Michael Thomas has 274 catches over the past two seasons, but other Saints receivers have had little production. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
This year’s NFL draft class is loaded with high-end receiver talent — with seven or eight guys in the mix to become first-round draft picks. So the Saints could possibly land someone like Clemson’s Tee Higgins if he falls to them with the No. 24 pick (as he did in ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s latest mock draft).

Or they could pounce in free agency or the trade market — where price tags for wide receivers might be depressed a little bit because of that loaded draft class.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis declined to label the wide receiver position as a “must” priority when he met the media during the Senior Bowl last month. And he insisted that the Saints like their young receiver depth — which includes possible expanded roles next season for undrafted 2019 rookies Emmanuel Butler, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and All-Pro kick returner Deonte Harris.

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“I think we have a group of wide receivers that we really like,” Loomis said. “We’re in the business of improving our team any way we can. And your question [about wide receiver being a top priority] is a good one. And yet part of that is dictated by what becomes available and how do we fit it in our roster. Those are questions and answers; we’re not there yet. We’ve got a long way to go here.”

But none of the young receivers on the current roster is a No. 2. Smith hasn’t developed into one so far, with just 18 catches in the 2019 regular season and none in their playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. And the closest thing New Orleans has had to a No. 2 over the past three years, veteran Ted Ginn Jr., will become an unrestricted free agent in March. He turns 35 in April.

So, yeah, it’s a must.

The Saints were able to make due well enough over the past two regular seasons to go 13-3 each year — leaning heavily on Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara and Cook. But their lack of reliable wide receivers really hurt them in each of their past two playoff exits.

New Orleans’ two biggest pass plays in its 26-20 overtime loss to the Vikings last month were a 20-yard TD pass from Drew Brees to third-string quarterback Taysom Hill and a 50-yard pass from Hill to Harris (who had a total of six catches for 24 yards in the regular season).

In the previous year’s NFC Championship Game loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints’ two touchdown passes were caught by Hill and seldom-used tight end Garrett Griffin — who has only one other catch in his career. Earlier in that game, undrafted tight end Authentic Dan Arnold Jersey dropped a pass in the end zone. And the infamous missed pass interference call toward the end of the game came on a pass intended for seldom-used receiver/kick returner Tommylee Lewis.

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The Saints probably don’t have enough ammunition to target an elite receiver this offseason. They’re already slammed against the salary cap. They don’t pick until 24th in Round 1 of the draft, and they don’t have a second-round pick. So free agents such as Amari Cooper and A.J. Green and top draft prospects such as Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb might be out of reach.

But the Saints don’t need another version of Thomas, necessarily. They just need another reliable target — preferably someone who can line up in the slot and catch the kind of high-percentage, midrange throws that Brees has been feasting on in recent years.

Think Lance Moore and Willie Snead types.

Even if Brees retires, potential replacement QB Teddy Bridgewater has also proved to be more of a high-percentage thrower so far in his career. So a free agent who plays a lot in the slot, such as Emmanuel Sanders, Randall Cobb, Danny Amendola or even Nelson Agholor might make more sense financially than downfield threats such as Robby Anderson or Breshad Perriman.

Likewise in the draft, a big target such as the 6-foot-4 Higgins might make more sense than a burner like Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III.

But let’s face it — the Saints could probably benefit from any of the above, as well as potential first-round draft picks such as Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, TCU’s Jalen Reagor or several other prospects.

Because as spectacular as “Can’t Guard Mike” has been for the Saints, guarding Mike is exactly what defenses will keep trying to do unless the Saints give them someone else to worry about.

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The Arizona Cardinals have released veteran safety D.J. Swearinger, the team announced Monday.

Swearinger had been with Arizona since last December after the Cardinals claimed him off waivers from the Washington Redskins.

The Redskins had released Swearinger two days after he ripped defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s playcalling in a loss at Tennessee. Before his release, Swearinger had been warned about making critical remarks about the team.

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Swearinger, 28, started the Cardinals’ first four games this season and made 28 tackles, with one pass defensed. However, he struggled in coverage and had allowed a passer rating of 145.3 on passes thrown against him, according to Pro Football Focus.

The seven-year veteran has 14 interceptions, 40 passes defensed and 386 tackles in 94 career games with the Cardinals, Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Redskins.

In corresponding roster moves, the Cardinals re-signed Authentic A.J. Richardson Jersey to the practice squad and put fellow receiver Authentic Johnnie Dixon Jersey (hamstring) on the practice squad injured reserve list.