We all know the Arizona Cardinals have some major personel decisions to make in the upcoming months regarding free agency, the draft and several "special" contract issues with players such as Antrel Rolle, Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett. While Boldin and Dockett simply want new contracts, Rolle's situation is a bit more complicated. Due to escalators in his rookie contract, commonplace for the Cardinals (just think Larry Fitzgerald from a couple years ago), Rolle is on the verge of earning a four million dollar roster bonus, plus his base salary this season would be just north of eight million. Needless to say that's just about enough to tank any teams budget but the two sides have been in talks on some kind of resolution (ie a new contract) for some time, as Andrew noted last week, but it appears as though something may have changed. Darren Urban, the team's official web master, recently wrote about the situation and this line seems to sum up the matter rather concisely:
I expect him to be released into the open market.
While that line might not mean much if I or Andrew were to write it, at least in my mind it means something coming from Urban. Urban isn't in the business of pure speculation or spreading unfounded rumors, after all he is an employee of the team. So what does this mean for Rolle and the Cardinals?
While we've known for some time that a big hurdle this off season would be the restructuring of Rolle's contract, it seems as though the team is ready to cut him and then try to resign him once he's on the open market. That seems like a drastic way to save some cash but it would be interesting to see how Rolle handles such a decision. Would he feel like the organization didn't honor their end of the contract after he's been a pretty model employee? Would he look at the recent history of guys like Boldin, Dockett and Karlos Dansby and want to negotiate with a franchise that says, "hey we're going to cut you but we want you back?"
The timing is certainly favorable for Rolle considering that he's coming off his first Pro Bowl season and it's very reasonable to expect his next couple of seasons to be the best year's of his career. He just turned 27 in December and has started to flourish in his new safety spot. One interesting nugget to remember in this process is that if the Cardinals are prepared to offer Rolle a new long term deal it'll certainly be measured against Adrian Wilson's deal. A-dub signed a five year deal worth roughly $40 million, $18.5 of which was guaranteed. While Rolle isn't nearly as accomplished as Wilson, I'd expect his contract to be fairly similar considering that in his mind he's losing $12 million this season if the team does in fact cut him.
If Rolle were to leave, the free safety job would fall to last year's third round pick Rashad Johnson. RJ didn't play much as a rookie, in fact he was inactive for six games in the regular season and both playoff games, but the staff has stated that he progressed throughout the season and should take on a larger role in 2010 regardless of Rolle's status on the team. So with all of this being said, should the team cut Rolle and try to work out a new deal? Should they just suck in up and pay him $12 million in an uncapped year and then work towards a new contract in the next twelve months? Or does cutting him and moving Johnson up the depth chart make more sense?