Is Antrel Rolle The Highest Paid Safety?

When Antrel Rolle signed his new five-year, $37 million contract with the Giants, word quickly spread that he's now the highest-paid safety in NFL history.

We said it.

Adam Schefter said it.

Jason La Canfora said it.

But then we started getting questions from readers who thought that Colts safety Bob Sanders had gotten a better deal.  Last night, we laid out the differences between the two contracts, pointing out that Sanders had signed six-year, $38.5 million deal, and that Rolle had signed a five-year deal from scratch.

That hasn't put the matter to bed, and for good reason.  As a source with knowledge of the Sanders contract pointed out today, the Sanders extension was done late in the 2007 season, so it really wasn't a six-year deal.

The new money for Sanders' deal was $37.5 million over five years.  Rolle's deal was $37 million over five years.  (The deal possibly was done at the tail end of the 2007 season to take advantage of any remaining cap space.)

Factoring in the reality that Sanders' deal was negotiated late in the 2007 season, the numbers are very close, with Sanders holding the total edge as to total dollars.

This doesn't change the fact, however, that Rolle has $15 million that is guaranteed for skill and injury; Sanders' guarantee for skill and injury is only $8 million.  It means that, for example, if Sanders passes a physical before the start of the 2010 season and the Colts decide based on their success in 2009 without him that they don't want to pay him the balance of the deal, any remaining guaranteed money not guaranteed for both skill and injury would be lost.

The reality is that there are enough facts to allow manipulation based on perspective.  Rolle's camp has every incentive to characterize those facts as making the former Cardinal the highest-paid player in the league.  And Sanders' camp or Troy Polamalu's camp or other agents who are competing with Rolle's agents have every reason, as they undoubtedly did, to funnel contrary information to folks in the media, like our friend Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger, who in our view adopted a tone that was a little too preachy and not sufficiently pragmatic given that his article was influenced by the other side of the same coin that got us, Schefter, and LaCanfora to declare that Rolle is now the highest paid safety in the league.  (In this regard, we also think that Polamalu's four-year extension signed before the 2007 season even started must be viewed as a five-year deal, which would presumably make his contract inferior to both Sanders' and Rolle's.)

It's also possible that the Giants are pushing this information in order to deflect criticism that they made a guy who arguably isn't the best safety in the league the richest one.  But teams rarely put out accurate contractual information, since they want the player to be happy with his deal -- and thus not asking for more money while the ink is still moist.

From our perspective, we care only about making sure the audience has access to accurate information.  Even if it means clarifying the numbers at best, and scraping canine fecal matter off our shoes at worst.

In this case, both sides can make a plausible claim to having the biggest contract for any safety in league history.  And, obviously, both sides are.

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