And more importantly, they got him under contract before he could leave.
Rolle, the eighth overall pick in the 2005 draft, signed a five-year contract with the Giants Friday night in the hope of helping firm up a trouble spot at the back end of the team’s secondary. According to someone briefed on the details of the deal, Rolle’s contract is worth $37 million with $15 million guaranteed. The person requested anonymity because neither side discussed the details of the contract publicly.
The 27-year-old Rolle’s contract is one of the top deals ever for a safety, with the guaranteed portion of his contract coming in behind the contracts for Bob Sanders ($20 million), Adrian Wilson ($18.5 million) and Troy Polamalu ($15.375 million).
"I had five great years with the Cardinals organization," Rolle said in the Giants' press release. "But I felt it was time for a change."
Rolle began his career as a cornerback but converted to safety before the 2008 season after recording a career-high five interceptions the year before. Last season, on his way to being named a Pro Bowl alternate, he had four interceptions, including the one over the top of Steve Smith that sealed the Cardinals’ victory over the Giants in Week 7.
Rolle likely earned himself a big chunk of this latest contract with a very good performance that night. He was solid in coverage, showed his versatility and athleticism by attempting a pass on offense and displayed his hitting ability by leveling Giants tight end Kevin Boss late in the game (albeit on a hit that was ruled an illegal, helmet-to-helmet blow).
“Antrel is a young, ascending veteran player," general manager Jerry Reese said, "and he is an outstanding person who will bring leadership, versatility and more big play ability to our secondary."
Now, for the first time in a long, long time, the Giants potentially have two athletically gifted players at the back end of their secondary.
It’s only a potential scenario for now because two-year veteran Kenny Phillips is still working his way back from microfracture surgery and has yet to start jogging fully. Phillips and the Giants have both said he’s making solid progress, and the signing of Rolle was in no way an indication the team isn’t confident Phillips will return to top form.
“Kenny was a big reason why Antrel has agreed to sign with the Giants and I think Antrel loved the idea of playing with Kenny,” Rolle's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said during an inetrview with Sirius NFL Radio. "Kenny’s going to make a compete recovery and we’re very optimistic about him doing that.”
Rather, it’s a sign the Giants have had enough of bargain free agents, late draft picks and undrafted free agents, such as Michael Johnson, James Butler and C.C. Brown, serving as their starting safeties.
And they certainly broke out the check book to pay Rolle, who gave the Cardinals a chance to match the Giants offer, to help improve the talent level at safety.
"I can tell you they went toe-to-toe with the Giants," Rosenhaus said of the Cardinals. "It wasn’t an economic thing. I believe it was more to do with the fact that Antrel wanted to be closer to home and is from the East Coast. A lot of times guys spend 5 years in one program and they want to try something different. There was nothing wrong with what the Cardinals did, just more so that the Giants and Antrel made a good fit.”
It wasn’t Rolle-or-bust for the Giants in their search for a safety.
The team also held discussions with the Saints’ Darren Sharper yesterday, according to someone informed of the progress of talks between the 34-year-old former Packers and Vikings safety. Sharper, who has four interceptions of Eli Manning in his career, was the Giants’ primary backup plan to Rolle, said the person, who requested anonymity because of the private nature of talks. A pair of restricted free agents – the Colts’ Antoine Bethea and the Rams’ Oshiomogho Atogwe – also served as contingency plans.
But in the end, the team got the player they had targeted.