Kent Somers of AZCentral Sports reported Friday the sides have been in "serious negotiations" about a new contract recently. He also passed along comments from Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, who admitted during a radio interview with Arizona Sports that getting deals done at this stage is tricky.
"As it gets closer to free agency, some players prefer to try and test the market, which we understand. It's a business," Keim said.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provided some additional details about the situation:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
I'm told Tony Jefferson will hit the free agent market. Expectation from league sources is $7M+ per season.2017-2-17 17:37:41
Jefferson is coming off another rock-solid season in the Arizona secondary. He racked up a career-high 96 combined tackles to go along with five passes defended, two sacks and two forced fumbles across 15 games. He landed on injured reserve in late December due to a sprained MCL.
In all, the 25-year-old Oklahoma product has tallied 276 combined tackles, 11 passes defended, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and a touchdown in 63 games for Arizona. The team signed the California native as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
He played last season on a one-year deal after signing the Cards' restricted free-agent tender, which was worth just under $1.7 million, per Spotrac.
Jefferson told Kyle Odegard of the Cardinals' official website in September he wasn't a fan of potentially hitting the open market, despite not getting the type of contract he wanted last offseason.
"I hate free agency," he said. "I hate all that. If it was a perfect world, I wish we could all just stay with the team where you go. Obviously it doesn't work that way. Obviously I didn't get what I wanted this offseason, so that does fuel me—still being overlooked and undervalued. It's my year to show."
In addition, Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports noted the defensive playmaker discussed the possibility of giving Arizona a "hometown discount" back in November.
"Maybe," Jefferson said. "I'm a five-hour drive away from home, San Diego. That's always coming into consideration."
All told, it's no surprise the Cardinals are interested in an extension. The stability Jefferson provides at the strong safety spot allows Tyrann Mathieu—the team's dynamic free safety—the freedom to take some extra risks in search of a game-changing play.
Keeping Jefferson is likely going to take a much bigger commitment, both in terms of money and years, than Arizona gave him with the tender last year, though. So it's unclear whether the sides will be able to reach a final agreement before free agency arrives.