Monday, March 8, 2010

Giants: sign Rolle

By now you all know about the signing of Antrel Rolle who became an unrestricted FA when the Cardinals cut him. It's hard to understand what the Cardinals are doing - they have now lost 4 important players from their team last year. Three of them are: Antrel Rolle to the Giants; Karlos Dansby to the Dolphins; and Anquan Boldin in a trade to the Ravens for essentially a middle round draft pick. That's three important players - don't forget that they also lost Kurt Warner to retirement. Why did the Cardinals let all these players go? There's no salary cap this year, so that can't be the issue. They definitely were losing Warner to retirement, so they knew his salary was coming off the books (reported to be $4M). Boldin was traded for a middle round pick to the Ravens and his $3M salary came off the Cardinals books. I can understand why the Cardinals might not have an inclination to sign both Rolle and Dansby, but it's hard to understand why they let both go, with (at least) $7M reduction in salary that will accrue to them with the departures of Warner and Boldin. One possible answer is the long rumored tight spending habits of the Bidwill ownership of the Cardinals. No reason to look for another answer. It looks like they are going with Leinart as the qb and perhaps they want to wait and see whether they have a franchise qb in Leinart before they ante up and spend money on an expensive supporting cast around him to push for contention. Cardinals have a relatively new stadium and have made a good playoff push the last two years, making the Super Bowl in 2008. The ownership may feel that they have established enough credibility with the fans that they can afford a down year, where they save money on payroll and still maintain fan support and loyalty.

From the Giants perspective, this is a great signing. Rolle is an excellent player and the S position has become very important in today's game, perhaps even surpassing LB in its criticality to the defense. Average LB's can be compensated for by a great DL in the running game and great S play in the passing game. But with the NFL now a pass-centric league, the S position has become critical and you can't hide them. More than sitting back and covering the occasional deep ball, safeties need to have great range running sideline to sideline in coverage and with the very common 3 and 4 WR sets, they are thrust in a role of man-to-man pass coverage very often. We all remember what a disaster the Giant S position was last year, with Phillips out, with Michael Johnson having a bad year and with CC Brown (CC stands for Can't Cover... thanks for my brother for pointing this out to me) having to step in and try to be a factor in pass defense, a role for which he is not well suited. Rolle is a perfect match. he is fast, is a very tough hitter and has strong coverage skills, having spent his first few years in the league as a CB. If Phillips comes back from his injury, the Giants S position will be strong and their DB-field, with Webster, Thomas and Ross at CB should be a strength, rather than the weakness it was last year.

Giants still need to figure out what to do at the LB position. They also need to figure out if the players on the DL who did so poorly last year will come back from their injuries and perform well this year. There are a lot of question marks for the Giants defense this year and these will probably not be answered until the season gets going.

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