Last year, the New York Giants uncharacteristically broke the bank, spending over $80 million on three top-tier free agents.
In car speak, the front office thought it had bought a Lamborghini, but upon further inspection, realized its purchase was more like a Honda Civic in disguise.
To put things simply, general manager Jerry Reese was not pleased with the results of his franchise’s investment.
The Giants have long been considered a conservative organization when it comes to major player acquisitions, which is why it was so surprising to media outlets and sports fans, when the Giants, once again, didn’t shy away from spending big in free agency this off-season.
The team’s reputation did little to deter them from going against their philosophies however. They signed the ball-hawking veteran free safety Antrel Rolle, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, just one day after the clock struck midnight to start the 2010 free agency signing period.
With the forums ablaze now that Antrel Rolle has suddenly become the highest paid safety in NFL history, the only question that remains is, will he be worth it?
Rolle instantly became the most coveted free agent safety following his release on March 4 from the Arizona Cardinals, a move made to avoid paying him the $4 million roster bonus and $8 million salary he was due.
The New York Giants zeroed in on the 27-year-old prized prospect hailing from Homestead, Florida in hopes of adding him to their already thin and porous secondary unit. It was clear, that after finishing with a dismal 8-8 record in 2009, the G-Men would not be resting on their laurels.
The former corner-back for the Miami Hurricanes, Rolle had nothing short of a superstar collegiate career.
His most memorable performances were shutting down two receivers who would later go on to become perennial Pro Bowlers in the NFL, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.
Rolle limited Johnson to only two catches for 10 yards, and Fitzgerald did not fare much better with a pedestrian three receptions for a mere 26 yards.
As a true freshman in 2001, Rolle would be one of four players on his Miami squad to letter. This accolade was the first of many for the young, up-and-coming corner as he would provide an even more astounding encore during his sophomore season, capped off by a selection to the All-Big East first team.
In 2003, he broke out on the playing field and in the media, garnering some much deserved recognition, as well as posting numbers that would give “stat freaks,” wet dreams.
Rolle finished his junior campaign with 51 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions. Needless to say, he had officially arrived.
Antrel would be rewarded two-fold; aside from being honored with such prestigious awards as the ACC Male Scholar Athlete of the Year, he would also be selected eighth overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Having been selected so high, Rolle knew that a hefty multi-million dollar contract would be heading his way, along with the proverbial, “Welcome to the NFL, rookie.”
Upon entering the NFL, Rolle was asked to hit the ground running, becoming an immediate starter.
His starting role would be short-lived, however, due to a left knee injury he sustained just four games into the season.
The torn cartilage in Rolle’s knee would prove to be only a minor setback on the path to an illustrious professional career. In 2007, Rolle was demoted to a backup role in the preseason, which lit a fire under him and provided the motivation he lacked.
That season, on November 18, he set an NFL record of three intercepted passes returned for touchdowns in one game against the Cincinnati Bengals. This became a career highlight for Rolle, and he was chosen as the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
He finished the year with 61 tackles, five interceptions (tied for ninth most in the NFL that season) and three return touchdowns.
The following season, in 2008, Rolle admirably accepted a position change to free safety, displaying much versatility. His diverse skill set was exemplified again in the 2009 season, as Rolle was used extensively at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
With dazzling professional career totals of 12 interceptions, 294 total solo tackles, three forced fumbles and one-and-a-half sacks, some might wonder why there would even be any doubt concerning the continued success of Antrel Rolle in the future.
Certainly, Rolle’s impeccable track record speaks for itself, and although he may have been paid more than he deserved by the Giants in free agency, his body of work and experience will pay dividends for him in his new home.
The Giants can rest easy knowing that they won’t have to bear the shame of cruising down the street in a dilapidated lemon, but rather a slim and sleek European roadster with the signing of Antrel Rolle.
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