Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Than a "Rolle" Player

Samari Rolle has made it very clear- he wants out of Baltimore. I understand his reasoning, too. He was asked to take a pay cut for the second consecutive year (and refused for the second consecutive year), making it seem as though the Ravens don’t think he is worth his price tag. Then (also for the second consecutive year), the front office brought in a player he deemed to be his replacement- though that would be high praise for a player with a stat line as pedestrian as Dominique Foxworth. Finally, and perhaps most devastating was the releasing of Chris McAlister and the sign that came with it that Baltimore isn’t afraid to dump its star corners when it has to. All of this has culminated in Samari Rolle wanting out before he is forced out, or worse yet, he is forced into a supporting rather than a featured role.

However, I would like to invite Samari to take a step back and survey the situation without the lens of his friendship with McAlister or his self consciousness about his age. There is no way that Coach Harbaugh wants to enter the season with Fabian Washington and Foxworth as his top two cornerbacks. No team wants to lose two Pro Bowl corners in the same offseason, particularly with the paucity of quality corners on the market. Ravens management isn’t going to hurry to cut ties with a player who had an impressive year despite often being left alone in single coverage- and as Rolle has said, the Ravens were 10-2 with him in the lineup. As for Rolle being put into the nickel spot or made into a role player, I wouldn’t count on it. It was easy to say (especially by me) that Samari would lose a step this year, but he didn’t, and while he can’t cover the fastest players on the field anymore, his instincts make him a one or a two corner in this league. I think it is safe to say that from a football standpoint, they want Rolle to start.

But why then ask him to take a pay cut? It is simple- Rolle is an aging player with a large salary, and the Ravens are in cap trouble right now. They were hoping to restructure his deal and free up a million or two to help the team resign their other free agents, all of whom spare Ray Lewis appear to have flown the coop. If I were the Ravens I would be trying to cut as much money off of the cap as I could, and I wouldn’t be shy about harping on the fears of a 30-something veteran player who may not be sure how big his next contract will be. It isn’t pretty, but it’s part of the business side of this game.

So, then what do the Ravens do now? With Jim Leonhard (likely) gone, Chris McAlister already released, and a significant weakening at the linebacker position with the departure of Bart Scott, I wouldn’t release Rolle unless it appears that he will be a cancer in the locker room. Without Rolle you are left with a group of cornerbacks filled with the dreaded “P” word- potential, the single most dangerous and devastating word in sports. The Ravens should try to work something out with their disenchanted corner to smooth things over, and give him a starting spot if that will assuage his worries. If nothing will calm him down, you still don’t release him- in this market he still may be worth a 3rd round selection. You never give away a player like Samari Rolle, even if that’s what he wants.

In the meantime, Samari should calm down, assume his leadership position on the team, and step in as the starter. He should count his $4.2 million a year and wonder what a 32-year-old corner like him would make on the open market… less than he would think.

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