Rolle to Dallas: How it could happen

As the annual shopping spree that is NFL free agency approaches, teams have evaluated their talent, and made up lists of players they want to go after.

Some are based on whether their own free agents leave, but teams know when they need a starter at one position, or depth at another.

If strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh leaves Dallas for another team, the Cowboys will be in need of a replacement to start in his place. It has others on the roster who have played the position, but the team seems convinced that Pat Watkins is better suited to coming off the bench, and while Mike Hamlin might be an eventual answer at the position, he was a rookie this season and missed part of the year with a wrist injury, and the team does not appear inclined to go into the offseason counting too heavily on him.

With that said, the name of a new free agent candidate has emerged, and could be an ideal fit. For the same reason Dallas could lose Sensabaugh, the Arizona Cardinals could lose five-year veteran Antrel Rolle. When he was drafted in 2005, Rolle signed a six-year, incentive-laden contract that calls for him to earn a base salary of just over $8 million in 2010, plus a roster bonus of $4 million that would be due in early March.

Fellow Arizona safety Adrian Wilson already was the NFL's highest-paid safety in 2009, at just over $7 million, and the chance of thrifty owner Bill Bidwill employing the two highest-paid players at a position is virtually nil.

The Rolle scenario could go one of two ways. He has said he has no interest in taking a paycut, and if he gets released — the former University of Miami star has mentioned the Dolphins as a possible target destination if he should hit the open market — there's no way he'd make up the $12 million he's supposed to make next year in Arizona.

While Rolle says he has no interest in a paycut, there is talk that the Cardinals would like to retain him and talks are underway about an extension, which obviously would render the Rolle-to-Dallas conversation moot, as would an extension with Sensabaugh. But if the sides can't reach an accord on an extension, Rolle will be set free, and if that happens, Dallas certainly could use him.

Rolle is a fast, durable (he has missed one game in the last four years) player who can play just about anywhere in the secondary. The former cornerback has 12 interceptions in five seasons in Arizona, four of which he returned for touchdowns.

Sensabaugh showed how the Dallas defense can be better with two safeties who can cover downfield, and Rolle's cover skills are even better. He and Ken Hamlin would give the Cowboys one of the most versatile safety tandems in the league.

The chance of Rolle ending up in Dallas is slim. The Cowboys are not expected to spend extravagantly in free agency, and if Arizona cuts Rolle, there should be multiple teams interested. If some team decides Rolle is worth the same kind of money Wilson is making in Arizona, the Cowboys will bow out of the sweepstakes quickly — they already have Hamlin under contract for about $6.5 million per season. The Cowboys' best hope is that negotiations with the Cardinals get to the point where the team wants Rolle to take a paycut and cuts him because he doesn't want to take a pay cut. He has to know he won't make $12 million this season, so in essence, he will have to take the pay cut he has told the Cardinals he won't accept.

So there are a lot of "ifs" involved. If Arizona gets cut and if Sensabaugh bolts and if another NFL team doesn't drive his rate through the roof, Rolle would be a great fit in the Dallas secondary. Don't bet the rent on it, but don't think for a minute that the Cowboys aren't aware of the possibility.

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