It would be hard to characterize the National Football League as a group of humble unpretentious men. Rather, it is an institution based upon a bridled mêlée of elite physical specimens playing the roles of gladiators for an addicted and bloodthirsty fan base.
The nature of the safety position in football performs a crucial role on the gridiron battlefield. Ultimately, the safeties are the last line of defense protecting their home base; the end zone. It is not a position for those who lack confidence. Decisive choices must be made numerous times throughout the 60-minute brawl in order to prevent game-breaking offensive plays, and instigate momentum shifting turnovers.
Antrel Rolle certainly still has the required arrogance for the position. He indicated such on Twitter this week, when he posted a screenshot favorably comparing his own statistics to other top-tier safeties including Devin McCourty and Rahim Moore. Rolled paired his findings with a caption that appropriately featured a recognized hashtag: “#numbersdontlie. Check out Rolle's tweet comparing himself to the league's top safeties
At age 32 Rolle’s his reputation as a feared game-changer and physical skills have diminished greatly, but his presence has remained a constant for the Giants’ secondary. The question that remains; What is the true value of Rolle at this point in his career?
The conundrum for NFL personnel executives is quite obvious when dealing with Rolle. His production arguably out-valued the 5-year, $37 million deal he signed in 2010, and it laid the groundwork for future long-term safety deals like the one Devin McCourty just signed with the Patriots (5 years, $47.5 million). Over the past five seasons with the Giants, Rolle averaged borderline elite numbers of nearly 93 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups per season while playing in all 80 regular season games. The problem for Rolle is that he fills a very narrow need in the free agent market. There are only a handful of NFL teams that are a savvy veteran safety away from competing for a Super Bowl. Rolle’s potential is maximized in the 1-3 years (maybe) he has left in the league. McCourty, 27, is the same age Rolle was in 2010 and is able to provide a long-term answer for the Patriots. In the current NFL teams value draft choices and player development and give opportunities to unproven young players over higher priced veterans. Age is also the huge “Number” that isn’t on Rolle’s side of battle.
Careers are simply finite. Many of the defensive show stoppers of the “Rollean Era” are now hanging up the cleats in their early 30’s (Ed Reed, Patrick Willis, possibly Troy Polamalu to name a few). Is Rolle capable of outlasting these stalwarts?
All things considered, Rolle probably has a legitimate gripe for not receiving enough formal attention as an impending free agent. He’s yet to experience the precipitous fall that a plethora of veterans endure in the waning moments of otherwise shiny careers. It’ll probably be a substantial wait for Antrel Rolle over the next few months, and his fate could easily be postponed until after draft day needs are filled. For his sake, let’s hope not.