One of the most hotly-debated topics for the New York Giants this off-season will center on the future of veteran safety Antrel Rolle. Should the Giants bring the veteran safety back to East Rutherford? Should they take his pending free agency as an opportunity to get younger, more athletic and, maybe, better at the position?
Before I give you my decision and direct you to our 'keep/cut' poll, let's go through the pros and cons of keeping Rolle.
Reasons To Keep Rolle
-- While Rolle admitted he didn't play as well in 2014 as he would have liked, one sub-par season doesn't mean the 32-year-old is finished as a productive player. He probably is not.
-- With Jon Beason's status uncertain, and his health/availability a week-to-week question, there is a need for veteran leadership on the Giants defense. Rolle provides that.
-- Who is going to replace him? Even with his flaws, Rolle is the best safety the Giants have. Quintin Demps was a disappointment and is almost certainly one-and-done with the Giants. Stevie Brown did not play well in his return from a torn ACL. Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor are young and exciting, but unproven. No one really knows if they can play major roles on defense in 2015.
-- John Mara is keeping Tom Coughlin. Coughlin, in turn, appears to be keeping his assistant coaching staff intact. It seems to make sense that Coughlin would want Rolle back as one of the pillars on defense and in the locker room.
Reasons To Cut Rolle
-- He is 32 and coming off a disappointing season. Better to cut bait a year too early with a veteran than a year too late. The Giants have been burned by loyalty to veteran players too many times in recent years.
-- He really isn't as good as he thinks he is. His -13.9 Pro Football Focus score was 82nd out of 88 safeties who played at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps last season. He missed 25 tackles -- only seven safeties missed more. His -10.5 grade vs. the run was 85th among those 88 safeties. In four of his five seasons with the Giants Rolle has had a negative PFF grade, a +8.0 in 2013 when he played next to Will Hill being the exception.
-- He is coming off a five-year, $37.1 million contract. My guess is he still going to want to be paid like a premier player.
-- Perhaps his act has grown stale in East Rutherford. I have expressed the view previously that Rolle's public comments have seemed less constructive and more self-serving recently. Maybe both Rolle and the Giants would benefit from a separation.
I have gone back and forth on this one, and reserve the right to change my mind once I see what Rolle's asking price is in free agency. Right now my choice is ... keep him.
Now, let's discuss the reasoning. As I've said, on the current roster the Giants don't have anyone better. They also don't have any obvious candidates to accept the mantel of leadership that Rolle currently holds. I am already on record as saying the Giants should part ways with Brown, and voters in our poll overwhelmingly agree.
Rolle knows the Giants and Tom Coughlin. The Giants know him -- they know what he can provide on the field and both the good and bad of what he can bring away from the field. Rolle isn't a great player, and maybe he never was. He is still a pretty good one, whatever the PFF numbers say. Used properly, given players around him who can play in the slot and handle the box responsibilities to allow him to roam and be a play-maker, Rolle can be an asset at the back of a defense.
Now, about that contract. Rolle has to understand that his true big-money NFL days are over. Thirty-two-year-old safeties don't get rich mega-deals. Rolle has already had his. In my view, a front-loaded two-year deal that would enable the Giants to get out from under the second year should they choose without a huge cap hit seems about right.
What about the dollar amount? Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 33-year-old eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro, is currently working under a two-year, $11.75 million deal with $5.875 million guaranteed and a second year cap hit of $2.25 million should the Steelers part ways with him before the 2016 season.
Let's use Polamula's deal as a guide, while acknowledging that Rolle is not nearly the player Polamalu, a future Hall of Famer, has been. What then do you offer Rolle? How about two years, no more than $6-8 million and no more than $4 million guaranteed? If he wants more than that, move on.
Your thoughts, Giants fans? Vote in the poll and let us know.