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Wolf: Rolle and Dansby tough to replace but not impossible

Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby will be difficult to replace but not impossible.

The Cardinals wanted both of these players to return to the fold but at a reasonable price. Like having to let Leonard Davis go because they couldn’t pay him $12-million (he signed with Dallas for an average of $7.5-million per season, something he would never have agreed on with the Cardinals) or getting Larry Fitzgerald back to the negotiating table because the escalators in his contract were prohibitive (something the Cardinals never used to do in the prehistoric past), there comes a point in a player’s career where organizations cannot compete with an age old axiom: people want what they don’t have. People covet. And from the player’s perspective, let me throw in another axiom: the grass is always greener on the other side.

Enter Antrel Rolle. The Cards wanted to re-sign him. They couldn’t pay him the $12-million he was scheduled to make in 2010 – nobody could (and nobody did). Like Kurt Warner, the Cards did the smart thing: they let the market set his value rather than compete against themselves. In Warner’s case, the market didn’t over pay for Warner and the Cards re-signed him. In Rolle’s case. The market paid Antrel Rolle too much money; I agree with this assessment.

One report has Antrel Rolle as the highest paid safety in the league! This is egregious. Antrel made great strides at the safety position (tackling) and was explosive when he got the ball in his hands in the open field but he isn’t anywhere close to being the best safety in the league.

The best safeties in the league can cover wide-receivers and tackle running backs. Antrel is a safety that can play cornerback or a cornerback that can play safety. As I see it, the problem with Antrel has always been he wasn’t a great cover cornerback and he wasn’t a great tackling safety. Either way, he has holes. And now he’s one of the highest paid safeties in the league?

You can see the problem, can’t you?

But this is free-agency…and the very reason why teams aren’t winning championships by buying players. Teams MUST give free agent players more (in some cases MUCH more) than the player is actually worth. This model has proven over-and-over-again to be a non-sequitor – a logical fallacy. Yet some teams, seemingly, cannot resist.

Karlos Dansby is a great playmaker (that didn’t make a lot of plays in 2009). And I know the Arizona Cardinals, like Rolle, wanted him back. But I do not believe he is a great linebacker.

Dansby led the Cardinals in tackles last season and that’s significant. But with no disrespect to Karlos, watch the film. He made a ton of those tackles 5, 6, 7-yards down field and ran around blocks instead of taking them on in the hole. And the Cards entire scheme was built on putting Karlos in a position (moving him inside) and protecting him with defensive-lineman for him to make those plays. In addition, Dansby is not a pass-rusher; he is a blitzing LB’er that will get to the QB if he’s unblocked.

Where Dansby will be missed the most is in his ability to play solid man-coverage and play a great zone room. This is where he made most of his big plays, the open field. Whether he was stripping balls from receivers or defending passes or making interceptions, Karlos Dansby in space played like a safety.

Do not be fooled or misunderstand me, replacing these guys will not be easy. Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby were key contributors to the Cards success and are good football players. But the market over paid for both of these players. Or, as one NFL man told me outside the Cardinals organization, “Are teams watching film on these guys or what?”

From a player’s perspective, the brilliance of free-agency is that free-agents don’t always have to shine brilliantly. They just have to be available. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.