The New York Giants have made Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle the richest safety in the NFL.
In the waning hours of the opening day of free agency, Rolle signed a five-year, $37 million contract that has $15 million in guaranteed money. Agent Drew Rosenhaus tweeted the announcement late Friday, offering his personal congratulations to Rolle on becoming “the highest paid safety in NFL history!” The Giants formally announced the deal about 11:30 p.m.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Rolle, 27. “Words can’t really express how I feel now. I had five great years with the Cardinals organization. But I felt it was time for a change. The Giants are a first-class organization all the way. There are great opportunities for me, and I am excited to be working with the players I’ll be working with. I think the sky’s going to be the limit as to what we can do.”
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The signing fills a major need for the Giants, who lost Kenny Phillips to a serious knee injury early last season.
Phillips is expected back this season, and having the two Miami products deep in the secondary should help a defense that struggled last year.
“Antrel is a young, ascending veteran player, and he is an outstanding person who will bring leadership, versatility and more big play ability to our secondary,” general manager Jerry Reese said.
Rolle, who was recently released by the Cardinals, had four interceptions last season. The one that impressed the Giants the most came in late October when he stepped in front of Steve Smith to intercept an Eli Manning pass around the Cardinals’ 21-yard line with 68 seconds to play to nail down a 24-17 win.
New York had driven from its own 1-yard line in the final three minutes in an attempt to tie the game in which Rolle also had eight tackles. Rolle has played in 68 regular-season games with 59 starts. His career totals include 337 tackles (296 solo), 12 interceptions, 36 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks. He has returned four interceptions for touchdowns, including three in 2007.
This past season, Rolle started all 15 games in which he played and was credited with 72 tackles (61 solo).
Arizona, which also lost linebacker Karlos Dansby to Miami late Friday, released Rolle on Thursday because it wanted to avoid paying him the $4 million roster bonus and the $8 million salary he was due.
However, the battle for Rolle came down to the Giants and Cardinals, and Rolle chose New York after visiting with the team most of Friday.
“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity, and I feel truly blessed,” Rolle said. “They have the confidence I can come in and be the player that they expect me to be, and I will live up to everything they expect and go beyond.”
Rolle was Arizona’s first-round pick, the eighth selection overall, out of Miami in 2005. He began his pro career as a cornerback but had most of his success after being switched to safety in 2008.
In four seasons at the University of Miami, Rolle had 183 tackles and five interceptions.