The Cardinals released safety Antrel Rolle Thursday, making him a free agent.
For now, Antrel Rolle is no longer a Cardinal.
As expected, the franchise released their starting free safety Thursday to avoid the $4 million roster bonus he was due had he been on the team as of 10 p.m. Thursday night and the additional $8.1 million salary due in the final year of his rookie contract.
Rolle becomes an unrestricted free agent – and the Cards will make him one of their top free-agent priorities.
The Cardinals already had extended a long-term contract offer, but Rolle wanted to see what his worth would be on the open market. The Chicago Tribune reported Rolle is seeking a contract worth $8 million a season, which would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. That same report said the Cards' offer was for an average of $6 million a season.
"We've always been under the impression Antrel wanted to remain an Arizona Cardinal," general manager Rod Graves said. "We have been able to develop him and we have seen him develop into an outstanding player and we want to keep that relationship going. We're not looking to lose quality players, but again, all of those decisions have to make sense to us from a team standpoint."
In the short term, it means the Cardinals are strikingly thin at safety. Veteran Matt Ware, whom the Cards want to bring back, is also a free agent. Last year's third-round draft pick Rashad Johnson, chosen in part to aid the Cards if Rolle went elsewhere, hasn't done enough to prove he'll be able to replace Rolle if needed.
Teams floated as possible destinations for Rolle have been the Bears, Giants and Dolphins, although the Cardinals should remain in the hunt as long as Rolle's price tag doesn't suddenly jump to unexpected heights.
The Cardinals also officially announced the expected tenders to five key restricted free agents that should keep other teams at bay. Wide receiver Steve Breaston got the first-round tender (worth $2.396 million), while four others got second-round tenders – guard Deuce Lutui ($1.759M), nose tackle Gabe Watson ($1.759M), tight end Ben Patrick ($1.684M) and center Lyle Sendlein ($1.684M).
If another team tries to sign one of those players away, the Cardinals will have the right to match any offer. If they decline, they would get the resulting tendered draft pick as compensation. Most teams avoid restricted free agents for that reason, and once the player signs his tender, he no longer can accept a free-agent offer.
The Cardinals tendered three "exclusive" rights free agents as well: cornerback Michael Adams, fullback Nehemiah Broughton and defensive end Jeremy Clark.
The Cardinals did not tender offers to a handful of players, making them unrestricted free agents, although the team could still bring some of them back. The players not tendered offers were wide receiver Jerheme Urban, tight end Stephen Spach, fullback Justin Green, safety Hamza Abdullah and center Ben Claxton.
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