Sojourn Shelton headlines Cardinals' undrafted free agent class

The Arizona Cardinals spent $25,000 to secure the signing of undrafted free agent Sojourn Shelton.

In the waning hours of the NFL Draft, Arizona Cardinals' general manager Steve Keim executed a trade that sent a pair of the team's seventh round draft choices to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a sixth round selection.

The trade allowed the Cardinals to round out their draft with the selection of Auburn safety Johnathan "Rudy" Ford in the sixth round, but it also likely prevented Arizona from snagging an additional defensive back in the seventh round of the draft.

Though Ford is the last player who had the honor of being drafted by Arizona in 2017, he isn't necessarily the last player with a serious chance of pushing for a spot on Arizona's 53-man roster. In the hours following this year's draft, the Cardinals signed over a dozen undrafted free agents, including Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton.

Had Arizona had a seventh round selection at its disposal, it's entirely possible the Cardinals would have drafted the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Shelton given the fact the Cardinals spent more than a quarter of the money the team has allocated to sign undrafted free agents on locking up Shelton.

According to USA Today's Tom Pelissero, Arizona dished out a $25,000 signing bonus to Shelton, which is the largest bonus received by any undrafted free agent in the NFL this year. While at least five other undrafted free agents wound up with larger contracts due to guaranteed base salaries they received on top of their signing bonuses, Shelton's $25,000 bonus suggests he was among the most sought after undrafted free agents on the market. 

A four-year starter for the Wisconsin Badgers, Shelton recorded 129 tackles, 30 passes defended and nine interceptions during his time with the program. Shelton rounded out his senior season with the most efficient campaign of his career, notching 31 tackles and career-highs with 12 passes defended and four interceptions. 

Though Shelton is obviously undersized for the cornerback position in the NFL, he proved he was an effective cover man at the college level and could provide the Cardinals with help as a special teams asset on their kickoff and punt units. At the very least, Shelton will also have an opportunity to compete at cornerback, a position where the Cardinals lost starter Marcus Cooper to free agency and didn't replace him with a starter-caliber option.

Prior to the start of the NFL Draft, many analysts expected the Cardinals to chase after a cornerback to replace Cooper within the first two days of the draft, but Arizona waited until the sixth round to draft Ford and the organization appears content to have 2016 third round draft choice Brandon Williams battle veteran Justin Bethel for the starting job opposite Patrick Peterson. The lack of proven talent in Arizona's secondary could open the door for Shelton to earn a roster spot, and potentially become one of the hundreds of players in the NFL who began their career as undrafted free agents. 

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