The cash-strapped Giants should release Antrel Rolle


The New York Giants are in a brutal cap situation right now and one big step they need to take in order to get out of it is to release safety Antrel Rolle.

The team has already been fairly ruthless this offseason, cutting veterans such as linebacker Michael Boley, defensive tackle Chris Canty and running back Ahmad Bradshaw in order to create cap space.

Despite all of that and tackle Will Beatty cap’s number being reduced with his five year extension, the Giants still have very little cap room. According to Spotrac, the Giants have $4, 118,802 in cap space. That leaves them with barely any room to give Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks extensions, let alone add potential free agents.

The most obvious way to clear up more cap space would be to release offensive tackle/guard David Diehl and cornerback Corey Webster, both of whom provided minimal value to the Giants last year according to Pro Football Focus.  The Giants can save $4.475 million if they cut David Diehl and $7 million if they cut Webster and designate him as a post-June 1st cut (they will owe him $2 million in dead money in 2014). That would bring the Giants amount of cap space in 2013 to about $15,593,802.

16 million would definitely give the Giants flexibility heading into free agency. However, releasing Rolle would allow them to do a lot more this offseason.

Rolle is one of the most popular players on the Giants and is perceived as one of the better safeties in the league, evidenced by the five year, $37.5 million contract he was handed by the Giants in 2010. Rolle’s salaries reflect that as he is slated to make $7 million in both 2013 and 2014. The keyword here is “perceived”: Rolle is not one of the best safeties in the league at all. In fact, he’s closer to the bottom than the top.

According to PFF, 72.7% of the passes thrown at Rolle were completed in 2012, fourth worst amongst safeties who were targeted at least 40 times. Rolle was also pedestrian  at best in 2011 and 2010. Part of that may come from the fact that he’s been forced to play a lot of slot corner thanks to injuries the last two years. Then again, he wasn’t very good as a safety in his last year with the Cardinals in 2009.

It’s also not as if Rolle made up for his coverage woes by being a ballhawk. In his three years as a Giant, Rolle has a grand total of five interceptions. That falls in line with his production in Arizona when he picked off 12 passes in 68 games for the Cardinals from 2005-2009.

Rolle is above average against the run but not significantly so, and not nearly enough to compensate for his coverage woes and lack of turnovers. If Rolle was making $3 million, his production would be slightly unacceptable; at a cap hit of $9 million, it’s a gross, gross over-payment. The Giants could look to restructure his contract, but that isn’t a very viable option as he already restructured back in 2011, and the Giants don’t have much in the way of cap space for 2014 either.

Signing Rolle back in 2010 was a perfectly defensible decision.  The Giants pass defense in 2009 allowed quarterbacks to post a 63.1 completion percentage against, a 7.4 Y/A, and a 31 to 13 TD/INT ratio which was good for a 95.1 QB rating against. The Giants needed to upgrade on a safety core that featured C.C. Brown and Aaron Rouse. While Rolle has been an upgrade over those two, it hasn’t been anywhere near enough to justify his salary or to even make a noticeable impact on the Giants pass defense overall. It did take a step forward in 2010, having a line of 57.1/6.8/24/16/80.3 against in 2010, but has fallen apart since, allowing a line of 61.3/7.5/28/20/86.1 in 2011 and a 63.9/8.1/26/21/88.7 line in 2012. That’s obviously not all on Rolle but it’s hard to see where he’s made any kind of tangible effect on the Giants defense.

Some Giants fans may place the blame on defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. That would be reasonable except for two reasons. One, fellow Giants safety Kenny Phillips has flourished in Fewell’s zone scheme. Two, Rolle had the very same struggles in Arizona. There’s a reason the Cardinals chose to release him in 2010 and trade for Kerry Rhodes; because they realized he was a very flawed, overrated player who was getting paid for his name rather than his on field production.

The Giants need to get younger and more effective on defense in order to rebound in 2013. Paying a 30 year old safety $7 million for below average production is a deterrent to that plan and it makes no sense, especially considering they could find someone younger to put  up similar production at likely a third of the cost.

Of course, this might be all moot as ESPN’s Ohm Youngsimuk says Rolle won’t be going anywhere.  That would be a shame as Rolle stands little to no chance of being worth his salary in 2013. If they’re lucky, he’ll be worth half.