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Cardinals add veterans as free agency begins

The Arizona Cardinals added three veteran free agents with a combined 42 seasons of NFL experience on the first day of free agency.

The first day of the NFL free agency brought significant changes to the Cardinals' roster, as the team lost three of its defensive starters from the 2016 season while adding three veterans with a combined 42 seasons of NFL experience. 

How does each of the Cardinals' moves from day one impact the franchise moving forward? CardinalsSource will have full analysis pieces on each transaction in the coming week, but before the news cycle gets rolling again, we wanted to provide immediate analysis on all that took place on the first day of free agency.

Who they lost?

Calais CampbellAfter spending the first nine seasons of his career in Arizona, Campbell reportedly turned down the Cardinals' three-year, $31 million offer to head to Jacksonville where he'll make $60 million over four seasons. After the Cardinals committed to re-signing Chandler Jones, Arizona didn't have the cap space to realistically hope to keep Campbell in the fold, and in the process, the team loses one of its veteran leaders and one of the best locker room assets Arizona had. With Campbell out, Arizona needs 2016 first round draft choice Robert Nkemdiche to make a huge leap in year two in the NFL, because this could be the most difficult loss the Cardinals suffer this offseason.

Tony JeffersonThe Cleveland Browns reportedly offered him more money, but Jefferson wanted to play for a contender and wound up signing with the Baltimore Ravens. A former undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma, Jefferson never received the respect he thought he deserved until this offseason after leading the Cardinals in tackles and blowing up as one of the top overall safeties in the league. Keeping Jefferson under the salary cap restrictions was going to be nearly impossible for the Cardinals as well, but it doesn't make the loss hurt any less.

D.J. SwearingerWith Campbell and Jefferson on their way out, Arizona probably had a realistic chance of re-signing Swearinger, the hard-hitting strong safety who complemented Jefferson well at the back end of the defense last season. However, the Redskins swooped in and locked up Swearinger, meaning the Cardinals will lose both of their starting safeties from a season ago. Arizona may have to build through the draft in the defensive backfield after losing Swearinger, a player who was one of the unsung heroes of the Cardinals' pass defense a season ago.

Who they signed?

Antoine BetheaThe Cardinals turned to the 11-year veteran and former San Francisco 49ers' safety to replace Jefferson at the back end of the team's defense as Arizona's new free safety. Bethea will turn 33 over the summer, but Arizona likes him for the veteran leadership he brings to the table and his high football I.Q. Bethea isn't the safety that either Jefferson or Swearinger are at this point in his career, but he understands the game of football well, can aid the locker room with his voice, and likely comes to the Cardinals at a reasonable cost that won't break the bank.

Karlos DansbyBack for his third tour of duty in Arizona, the 35-year-old inside linebacker agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Cardinals and will likely have a chance to compete for the Mike linebacker job this fall. Dansby's signing could spell the end of the road for Kevin Minter in a Cardinals' uniform, as even at his age, Dansby is a more productive, rangier player than Minter and could help the team tutor a young linebacker if it chooses to draft one this April. 

Phil DawsonThe Arizona Cardinals have continually professed their trust for kicker Chandler Catanzaro, which is why Thursday's move to sign the 18-year NFL veteran Dawson came as such a surprise. Catanzaro won't be back in Arizona next year after the team added the San Francisco 49ers' castoff on Thursday, but if Arizona is serious about making an improvement on special teams, signing Dawson was a smart move. Catanzaro missed four extra points last season, while Dawson has missed four over the last decade.

Who they re-signed?

A.Q. ShipleyThe anchor of Arizona's offensive line in 2016, Shipley came out of nowhere to emerge as the team's starting center and was the only Cardinals' lineman to start all 16 games last season. Though Shipley isn't Pro Bowl material, he's not going to crush the Cardinals' pocketbook and he is going to provide a strong veteran presence and a high football I.Q. at one of the most underrated and important positions in football. Re-signing Shipley isn't the sexy acquisition Cardinals' fans were pining for, but it is the type of move that sets the foundation for a strong offensive line next season. 

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