As you might expect, there was tremendous gnashing of teeth in the fan base when the news broke that the New York Giants would be going forward without former defensive captain Antrel Rolle, who accepted a three-year, $11.25 million deal with the Chicago Bears on Wednesday night.
Some, of course, support the Giants decision not to bid against the Bears' offer, which included $5 million guaranteed. Others simply wanted to wish Rolle well and thank him for his time with the Giants. There are, however, fans who are upset by the news. And who don't, and won't, understand why the Giants didn't make a bigger push -- or maybe any push at all -- to keep Rolle. The comment from 'Markym90' below typifies that sentiment:
"We gave the same figures in Rolle's Bears contract to guys who will be nothing but backups and special teamers. This is puzzling."
Truth is, it really isn't puzzling at all. The Giants did what they have traditionally done -- refuse to pay big money or tie themselves long term to an older player whose best years are in the rearview mirror. This is what they did with Justin Tuck, a player whose tenure in New York was longer than Rolle's and included a pair of Super Bowl titles.
All along, you had to know that the Giants were not going to get into a bidding war for the 32-year-old Rolle. If a team was going to overpay for Rolle, and you can argue that three years and $5 million guaranteed is an overpayment for a player who had a poor 2014 season and is probably beginning to decline, the Giants were always going to move on.
The five players the Giants did sign, a couple to contracts very similar to the one Rolle got in Chicago, are all 28 or younger. That matters in the NFL. They are players either entering or in their primes. That, again, is a Giants free agency trademark. Given their choice, they want players with futures rather than pasts.
Is that the right decision? Only time will tell. It is a risky one for the Giants, there is no doubt.
Who plays safety?
We have been over this a gazillion times, but right now we have to do it again. The only safeties on the current roster are untried youngsters Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor.
The Giants, like much of the league it seems, are on the trail of free-agent safeties Rahim Moore and Ron Parker. The Giants reportedly have some interest in Darian Stewart, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. Former Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson is reportedly going to be cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The market for safeties is competitive and unpredictable. Not every team in the hunt for one is going to get one. What if the Giants are one of the teams that gets shut out?
They could always turn back to Stevie Brown -- if someone doesn't snatch him off the market first. If fact, it says here that considering the volatile nature of the safety market the Giants would be smart to get Brown's name on a contract sooner rather than later. Berhe and Taylor may turn out to be fine players, but the Giants have to have at least one experienced starter at safety. At his best Brown is a play-making center fielder with the size and physicality to play the run as well.
What about the leadership void?
For better or worse -- and at times it was both -- Rolle was the voice and the soul of the Giants' defense. Over his time in New York he gradually took that position away from Tuck. So, who leads now that Rolle is a member of the Bears?
The obvious answer is middle linebacker Jon Beason. Except for the fact that no one really has any idea how much the Giants can actually depend on the 30-year-old Beason to get on the field. It's telling that the great San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis just retired at the age of 30, largely blaming problems with his feet.
Beason played only four games last season, due to problems with his feet. Beason has not played a full 16-game season since 2010 due to Achilles, knee and foot injuries. There is no doubt about Beason's leadership skills. You can't lead, however, if you can't get on the field.
Who leads if Beason is on the sidelines?
Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara are now veteran Giants, but neither is a true leader. Devon Kennard might develop into one, but that's a big ask for a player who has started six NFL games. Berhe might become a leader, as well, but first he has to get into the lineup.
I completely understand why the Giants did what they did with Rolle. From a business and salary cap perspective it was the right move. If the Giants could have gotten Rolle to sign a one-year deal perhaps they would have done that. We will never know.
The Giants right now appear to have a huge hole at safety. Let's see how they fill it, and what happens on the field in 2015. That's the only way we are going to know if they made the right decision.