Perhaps lost in all of the Scouting Combine craziness is that free agency in the NFL begins on Friday at midnight. While it's going to be interesting to see league-wide how teams tread the uncharted waters of an "uncapped" season, us fans are still going to sit around all weekend and hope that the Dolphins make some kind of big splash.
The number one target for many Dolphin fans is Cardinals' linebacker Karlos Dansby. But fans have also been paying some attention to Dansby's teammate in Arizona, safety Antrel Rolle - formerly of The U. Rolle is expected to be released by the Cardinals by Thursday night (which is when his $4 million roster bonus is due). The Pro Bowl free safety will then become an unrestricted free agent and is hoping to receive a deal worth $8 million per year according to this report.
Meanwhile, Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland recently made a public show of support for current Dolphins free safety Gibril Wilson - who was signed to a big free agent contract last offseason and then proceeded to struggle for most of the season in Miami. So would this front office be willing to not only admit they made a big mistake by giving Wilson that kind of cash and then try to upgrade the position by spending millions more on another free safety?
Is Rolle even worth the money that he might get in free agency?
That's the question for the Dolphins - if they even have any interest in the Pro Bowl safety.
I'll be honest - I didn't watch too many Arizona Cardinals games over the past couple of years. But checking out an impartial football stats site - ProFootballFocus - reveals something interesting. Yes, Rolle made more big plays in 2009 (4 interceptions, 2 sacks) than Wilson. But PFF also ranks Rolle as the 50th best safety in the league among those who played at least 50% of the team's defensive snaps. Wilson? He came in a solid 15th.
But how? It's got to be because Gibril, if nothing else, is decent against the run (when he feels like tackling, that is). Right? Wrong. In their coverage rankings, Wilson places 22nd while Rolle is again down in 50th position.
Stats lie, though, don't they? They could - especially when the stats are being compiled from a source that is far from well-known or respectable. So let's go to the source and welcome in Andrew from Revenge of the Birds - SBN's Cardinals' blog. Here is his take on Antrel Rolle:
- Rolle can play multiple positions. When the Cardinals drafted him, he was a cornerback. Although he struggled at the position, he could fill in if there was a need. He also played the nickel cornerback and exceeded. When he made the transition to safety, there was an adjustment but eventually Rolle found his groove and became a very dependable safety. He can also return punts.
- He's a playmaker with the ball. Somehow, Rolle has a nose for the endzone. He's always a threat to return an interception or blocked kick for a touchdown. Rolle would bring exciting plays in the secondary to whichever team signs him.
- Solid tackler. He led the Cardinals several times throughout the season in tackles in a game and has very good form when wrapping up. He's not afraid of contact.
- Struggles in coverage. I'd be lying if I said Rolle was good cover safety. He has his moments where he completely whiffs on a play and gets caught out of coverage. He doesn't have top end speed to cover quick wide receivers, which is the primary reason he struggled at corner.
- Leadership skills are questionable. He's rarely been seen as a leader on the defense. It's relative though, some players just aren't leaders.
In the end, if the Dolphins were to sign Rolle, they'd be getting an experienced safety that's developing into one of the top in the league. I also believe he hasn't reached his full potential at safety yet. While he does struggle in coverage, it isn't a regular occurrence. He shouldn't be paid like Ed Reed, but he would shore up a need in the secondary of the Dolphins had one.
So does this change your mind at all? Or do you still hope the Dolphins get involved in the bidding on Rolle?