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Rolle predicament was a-voidable

3/2/2010

The fifth player chosen in the 2005 NFL draft is about to become a restricted free agent.

The eighth player chosen that year is about to hit the market without restriction -- and without his team receiving anything in return if he signs elsewhere.

This is good for the Bucs, who selected Cadillac Williams fifth, and bad for the Cardinals, who selected Antrel Rolle eighth.

Arizona's reluctance to sign rookies to voidable contracts was dubious anyway and even worse given rules changes associated with an uncapped year. Those changes require players to have six accrued seasons, not four, before becoming unrestricted free agents.

Rolle shouldn't be in the news much this week. Like Williams in Tampa Bay and members of the 2005 draft class elsewhere, Rolle should be an RFA this offseason. The Cardinals should have his rights for 2010 at a reasonable rate. Instead, the Cardinals are expected to cut Rolle to avoid paying a $4 million bonus and $8.1 million salary this offseason.

The decision to cut Rolle is understandable under the circumstances. Teams generally do not pay $12 million for safeties. It's the circumstances themselves that are problematic.

Rookie contracts that eventually void are common in the NFL, but the Cardinals have been averse to them. Their preference has been to backload deals, forcing both sides to the negotiating table. That would be fine if both sides felt the same pressure to work out a long term deal. The Cardinals are feeling a disproportionate amount of the pressure in Rolle's situation, same as they did when Larry Fitzgerald extracted a four-year, $40 million deal from them under circumstances even less favorable to the team.

The stakes won't be so high for the Cardinals in the next few seasons because they haven't been drafting near the top of the first round.

The Cardinals' lucrative extension for coach Ken Whisenhunt came with expectations that the team would change the way it does business, albeit in ways left undefined. Avoiding repeats of the Rolle situation should stand as a priority.