In one day the Arizona Cardinals lost three key players from their Super Bowl team of two years ago. was traded to Baltimore. Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants. And, of course, Karlos Dansby came to terms with our Dolphins. We have already spoken at length about the acquisition of Dansby - and we'll most likely continue to discuss it for days and weeks. So let's take a moment and quickly talk about "the one that got away."
Antrel Rolle is now a Giant - in more ways than one. The Giants signed Rolle to the richest contract ever handed out to a safety in NFL history - more than , , , , and to name a few. It will pay him a whopping $37 million over five years, with $15 million in guarantees and $22.5 million total in the first three years.
That was way to rich for Miami's blood - especially after signing Dansby to an NFL record deal for non-pass rushing linebackers. Truth be told, I was never sold on the idea of Rolle being worth the kind of money it would take to bring him in. Of course, I wonder what might have happened if the Dolphins were unable to sign Karlos. Would they have made a bigger push to bring in Rolle? Hmmm - you know what? Let's not even think about that scenario. Dansby is a Dolphin - no worries.
But with the release of Gibril Wilson on Friday, the Dolphins have a glaring hole at their free safety position. Well actually - it's not any more glaring than it was when Wilson was still on the roster. But let's not get into that. He's gone - we shall rejoice.
So where do the Dolphins turn now to address their need at free safety? Well there are some options.
Ryan Clark is out there on the market. The 30 year old free safety from Pittsburgh will come for less money than Rolle signed for and will be a good value for the team that signs him. But he's more known for his hitting and tackling ability than his coverage ability. And having played next to Troy Polamalu for a number years, there's a chance he looked better than he really is thanks to having a teammate back there in the secondary like Troy. Clark only has three interceptions total in his last two years and I don't know how well he fits in playing next to Yeremiah Bell. Clark scares me because he might be too much like the guy we just dumped.
Darren Sharper is also available. But I don't think he fits this system at his age. Might not be fast enough to do what this defense needs out of their free safety. With that said, I wouldn't be opposed to a one year deal if this regime is sold on his ability to fit in.
One interesting idea might be to sign O.J. Atogwe to an offer sheet. The Rams only tendered Atogwe at the lowest possible level. It gives St. Louis the "right of first refusal" but wouldn't entitle them to any draft picks if they let him leave for another team. In other words, the Rams would be able to match any offer sheet Atogwe might sign. If they don't, they get nothing.
Atogwe will be just 29 this offseason and remains among the best coverage safeties in the league. But what kind of price tag might he be looking for? He's coming off of a year in which he was franchised and paid over $6 million as a result. So Atogwe might not come cheap. But he's worth at least a look.
There are also some guys in the draft - with Eric Berry and Earl Thomas being the cream of the 2010 crop. As you all probably know, I love Berry. He's the best draft prospect since Ed Reed. But it's just not realistic to even hope for him to fall in April's draft all the way to the 12th pick. Thomas, though, should be there and is an excellent prospect himself. He can cover and he's a major ball-hawking play-maker back at the free safety spot. I'm not opposed at all to the Dolphins using their first rounder on Thomas.
Two possible replacements for Gibril already on the roster include Tyrone Culver and speedster Chris Clemons, who is coming off of his rookie season. Culver has flashed in the past in his reserve role. But I think he's the kind of player where he plays best when given less responsibility. I don't think he's starting material. As for Clemons, the jury is still out. He has the raw physical ability. But there's more to being a good starting safety than just physical talent. Does Clemons have the mental make-up to handle the position?