By Curt Macysyn
Perhaps caught in the euphoria of a three game winning streak is the fact that the Giants will head into the off season again as a work in progress. After 2013, it became evident that an offensive rebuild needed to take place, and the team attempted to put pieces in place that new offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, could work with. More pieces are needed offensively, but the team has three key elements in place: a franchise quarterback, a franchise receiver and a very good left tackle.
Defensively, this season has been a disappointment for New York in many cases, as the unit has struggled mightily at times. Even in the victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, the defense graded out (-13.2) in a winning effort. At times, the defensive line, linebackers and secondary have all taken turns allowing big plays, and against the Rams, only defensive end Kerry Wynn, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and linebacker Jameel McClain had positive grades.
This season continued to be a struggle for safety Antrel Rolle, as the affable veteran scuffled with a (-2.0) Pro Football Focus grade against St. Louis. According to OverTheCap.com, Rolle is in the final year of a five-year, $37.1 million contract that he signed in 2010. Rolle’s contract had $15 million in guaranteed money, including a $9 million signing bonus, and he is currently the sixth highest paid safety in the league.
The five safeties whose contracts are ahead of Rolle’s are: Earl Thomas (Seattle), Jairius Byrd (New Orleans), Eric Berry (Kansas City), Dashon Goldson (Tampa Bay) and Eric Weddle (San Diego). Putting aside Berry as he fights his own battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the remaining safeties contracts remain a mixed bag. Weddle (+20.7) and Thomas (+10.6) appear to represent good value for their clubs, while Goldson (-18.6) and Byrd (-3.6) do not. Byrd was placed on injured reserve by the Saints in October after injuring his knee in practice, but even before the injury, his production did not come close to justifying his big contract.
According to Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com, “Byrd earned the most guaranteed money of any free agent during the 2014 offseason, getting $26.3 million guaranteed on a six-year, $54 million deal from the Saints.”
Which leads us to the Antrel Rolle contract situation. Rolle has indicated a desire to end his career with the New York Giants, so he is looking for a contract in the area of three to four years. But Rolle, who recently turned 32-years old, has attained a (-10.1) grade by PFF this season. He has graded out in the positive only three games out of 15 this season, with two positive grades coming in the first three weeks of the season.
Rolle’s only positive grade over the the past 12 weeks was against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 13, certainly nothing to write home about. A three month stretch cannot be categorized as a bad game, so the Giants or any other team who signs him will have to employ caveat emptor.
In the past when the Giants have had salary cap issues, veteran players like Eli Manning, Chris Snee and David Diehl have stepped up to help the club creat additional cap room, but Rolle has not. It would be hard to imagine that Rolle was not approached by the team for help in this regard, especially two years ago, when the team was constantly bumped right up against the cap limitation.
To be clear, Rolle was under no obligation to provide relief to the Giants, who could have been more responsible in handling contracts, but on the other hand, Rolle must now negotiate with a clean slate as well. Rolle was compensated well when he gave the Giants good value from 2010 through 2013, but his play this season, with a cap hit of $9.2 million, has not represented good value for the Giants.
As the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
The notion of a hometown discount is a complete fallacy; something that agents conjured up because terrible teams were willing to break the bank to bring mediocre talent into the fold. How many players have the Giants lost to the Oakland Raiders over the past several years? When lousy teams overpay, then good team’s fair market contracts can seem like lowball offers.
The Giants have to look no further than the Jon Beason contract to understand how playing the hometown discount game can backfire on the team and leave them in salary cap purgatory. Does anyone really think that a three-year, $17 million contract for Beason represented a hometown discount?
As the team enters another pivotal off season, where momentum may be higher than it was after last year, the G-men have several significant decisions to make, including Rolle’s contract. Priority one for Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese should be the re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul by the team. But Reese might be wise to see what the open market dictates for Rolle before committing to contract, and New York would be wise to engage with soon-to-be free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh right as free agency opens.
If money is paramount to Rolle, then there will almost certainly be an opportunity for him to make big money in Jacksonville, Oakland, Tennessee or even Washington. But if he realy wants to “walk the talk,” then he may have to wait for a fair market contract with Big Blue.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.