Archive for February, 2007

Strahan To Meet With Reese

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Michael Strahan has asked to meet with Jerry Reese to discuss his future with the Giants. What does this translate to? Everyone knows Strahan is coming off a messy divorce in which he owes a lot of money. Strahan is signed for two more years at a very reasonable $4 million per season. When Strahan signed that contract, former GM Ernie Acorsi structured the contract to be “friendly” in the remaining years financially to the team so Strahan would not be a salary cap casualty. But with Strahan’s financial obligations due to the divorce, it would seem the defensive end is looking to renegotiate. I am not sure what leverage he has, if any. He will be 36, comes off significant injuries two of the last three years, and plays a position where the Giants are deepest. That being said, Strahan is still one of the top DE’s in the league when he is on the field. Hopefully this doesn’t escalate to the degree where Strahan holds out or is even released.

Free Agency Preview

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

With free agency set to begin on March 2, I’ve broken down where I think the Giants need to concentrate their efforts on improving this football team. I’ve defined areas of immediate need as positions where the Giants need help and must target these spots in free agency and/or the draft this year. Areas of concern are those positions where the Giants need to improve and also secure depth.

Areas of immediate need:
LB, DT, RB

Areas of concern:
CB, S, OL, QB

With league increasing the salary cap for 2007, most teams will have a lot of room to spend and, with a limited number of marquee free agents, this translates into overspending for players. Don’t expect to see an impact free agent class the likes of Pierce, Burress, McKenzie as we saw in 2005, but rather players to provide depth to the roster. First, let’s start in-house with the players I would like to see the Giants bring back (where “R” designated restricted):

Jay Feely
Shaun O’Hara
Grey Ruegamer
Chase Blackburn (R, signed 02/24/07)
Reggie Torbor(R)
Derrick Ward(R)
Gibril Wilson(R)

Areas of immediate need:

Linebacker: This is obvious. Parting ways with Arrington and Emmons, plus with two other current roster free agents, this position is the most pressing on the entire team. How long will the team continue to mire in mediocrity at a position that used to define the organization? Right now, the best free agent LB available is Adalius Thomas of Baltimore. He has had two stellar seasons back-to-back and will command a lot of money. Rumor had it Bellichick was chumming it up with im at the Pro Bowl. You’d have to think New England would be an attractive place to play. The only downside with Thomas is he’s 30 years old (but some say it’s a “young 30” as he was a special teams performer mostly before blossoming). I’ve already made my case for the Kawika Mitchell of KC. He’s still young and getting better. That’s the guy I want. The only other name that jumps out at me is Cato June of Indy. I’m not a huge fan, as he doesn’t strike me as a physical type LB that you want in the NFC East. Put in the right circumstance (and right price), he could be a good pickup. The Giants will also draft a LB, very possibly in the first round. Restore this unit’s pride Jerry Reese!!

Defensive Tackle: The Giants are one DT from having an outstanding defensive line. The Giants are loaded at DE. With Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins, the Giants have a nice pair of DT’s. But they need help, and former #1 pick William Joseph continues to underachieve mightily. He could be released. Joanis Seawright is no more than a journeyman. The Giants need another quality DT to round out the defensive line to make it the run stuffing, pass rushing unit that disrupts offenses. The Giants will wait until the draft to upgrade here.

Running Back: The premature retirement of Tiki Barber leaves a hole in the Giant running back depth chart. Let me first state that I think Brandon Jacobs is going to be a really good back, along the lines of Larry Johnson in Kansas City. He’s going to punish some people when the fourth quarter comes around. With that said, what’s behind Jacobs? Derrick Ward is a nice third stringer and Jim Finn is a quality fullback. The Giants need someone to A) push Jacobs for the starting role, and B) provide a “change of pace” in the Tiki mold (shifty, cutback-type with hands). Ahman Green (Packers) had a nice comeback year from injury and would be a nice fit, but he will be 30. Michael Turner (Chargers) is actually the best back but restricted. Dominic Rhodes (Colts) is solid, but not overly impressive to me despite his Superbowl performance. I’d prefer the Giants fill this need in the draft, as quality backs can be found in rounds two and three who come in and make an immediate contribution.

Areas of Concern:

Cornerback & Safety: You’re probably thinking this should be an area that needs immediate help. I’m not so quick to agree. They have numbers at cornerback (Madison, Webster, McQuarters, Dockery, Underwood) and are not as bad as they are portrayed.  A stronger front seven will do wonders to help them out.  The Giants went with “second tier” signings last year in Madison and McQuarters, so I think they’ll upgrade corner only through the draft, unless they decide to throw big money at the only Grade-A corner out there, Nate Clements of Buffalo. I also think the above group would also perform better with a little help from the HELLO…..safeties. Which brings us to Will Demps (lousy) and Gibril Wilson (average). Wilson has never regained his rookie form in 2004 where he looked like a playmaker. He’s a restricted free agent and I have no idea if the Giants want to resign him. I’d bring him back only because of his status. Make him the minimum offer and see what happens. His backup, James Butler could be a cheaper and at least equal replacement. Demps seemed out of position all year and went for the big hit rather than the ball. Regardless of whether Wilson is resigned, the Giants will need to sign or draft a safety for depth.

Offensive Line: Even with Petitgout gone, the Giants should still bring a pretty good OL to the table in 2007. Of course, a lot of that depends on center Shaun O’Hara being resigned. He should be made a priority. Assuming that, the problem will be depth if anyone goes down with a sustained injury. Do the Giants expect last year’s fourth rounder Guy Whimper to be ready if a tackle goes down? Remember how we got burned in 2003 with Ian Allen starting and Fassel juggling the line? Expect some movement here either in free agency, the draft, or both. Resigning guard Grey Ruegamer, or a similar type player, to remain a backup would be a step in the right direction.

Quarterback: Finally, quarterback is a big area of concern, so much in fact I thought about categorizing in under area of immediate need. And I’m not talking about starting QB (I continue to be a supporter of Eli). In fact, I am so much of a supporter that he if goes down, I realize how much trouble we are in. Can we really expect Jared Lorenzen to fill in for a 3-4 game stretch (or longer)? I think not. Cult following and QB sneaks aside, to me Lorenzen is not the answer, at least not yet, to the contingency plan. The Giants just need to look down the turnpike for precedence. In 2005, the Eagles collapsed due to the lack of quality at backup QB. Last year, they learned their lesson and Jeff Garcia did a great job filling in for D. McNabb. The one guy I like is Tim Rattay, who is unrestricted from Tampa. He’s got experience and has played well enough where he can capably run an offense. The Giants have been lucky the last two season with Eli, and believe me, going injury free is a lot about luck. However, after all is said and done I don’t believe the Giants will address this need. Hopefully I am wrong.

After free agency and before the start of the draft, I’ll revisit what the Giants have accomplished, compare it to my analysis, and preview the draft.

Briggs, Samuel Franchised

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Two players many Giant fans hoped would possibly be in Giant blue next season were franchised by their respective teams. LB Lance Briggs (Bears) and CB Asante Samuel (Patriots) both got the tag and basically become untouchable for this season, unless someone surrenders two first round picks which isn’t going to happen. Getting both anyway would have been unrealistic, but I got the feeling if Briggs hit the market as unrestricted the Giants would have made a big play for him. One guy I have my eye on is Kansas City MLB Kawika Mitchell. This goes with my previously mentioned strategy of moving Antonio Pierce to WLB.   There also is a rumor that the Giants like London Fletcher of the Bills. The downside: he is 32. The upside: he has never missed a game in nine seasons. Free agency is slated to begin on March 2 and I’ll have a preview of how I think the Giants should proceed before then.

Tiki Files/Can You Play LB?

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Tiki Barber filed his retirement papers with the NFL on Monday. This combined with the retirement of Bob Whitfield and the three players released on Monday puts the Giants about $20 million under the cap. Most estimate the Giants were about $12 million under prior to this. The Giants are extremely thin at LB.  Chase Blackburn (unrestricted), Reggie Torbor (restricted), and Brandon Short (unrestricted) are free agents. Emmons and Arrington are gone.  That leaves only Pierce and Gerris Wilkinson as legit linebackers. There’s little question this position must be targeted in the draft, and, if a player is available, in free agency. I’d like to see Torbor and Blackburn resigned. And I wouldn’t mind see Pierce moved to the weak side if the best option out there proved to be a middle linebacker.

Giants Cut Three

Monday, February 12th, 2007

The Giants released three veteran players on Monday. One was not surprising (Carlos Emmons), another a bit of a surprise (LaVar Arrington), and the last very unexpected (Luke Petitgout). Let’s startwith Emmons. He never lived up to his reputation mainly because he was injury plagued his entire stay with the Giants.  After three consecutive seasons of injuries it was time to move in another direction. Arrington was surprising mainly because he was just in the second year of his contract and you’d figure the salary cap implications of releasing him could be devastating. But it appears it will only cost the Giants $2.9 million and considering Arrington is rehabbing  an Achilles injury from last season (throw in a bad knee which limited his practice time last training camp) it’s clear the Giants wanted to start fresh at the OLB position.

Petitgout was the biggest eyebrow raiser. The Giants are parting ways with a pretty good left tackle (albeit sometimes injured-bad back) and the guy responsible for watching Eli’s back. So why did they do this? For the last two years they have allowed a low number of sacks while piling up big time rushing yards. Obviously it just wasn’t all Petitigout but he was a part of it. The Giants said these cuts were due to players not being able to stay healthy (ummm, are Strahan and Shockey next..obviously not).  That makes sense with Arrington and Emmons, but Pettigout played injury free in 2004 and 2005, and the injury he suffered half way into 2006 can hardly be considered his fault or a conditioning thing. Also I don’t believe there were any long term effects projected due to that injury.

The Giants will net about $2 million in salary cap from all three moves. So it is not even a salary cap issue. This is Jerry Reese beginning to put his stamp on the team as GM. It also becomes apparent to me that David Diehl will move to left tackle and Rich Seubert will move to guard. I’m okay with that……..Diehl is athletic enough to play out there and Seubert is starter material. It just seems to me giving up a premium position player in Petitgout hurts the depth on a critical unit. Resigning center Shaun O’Hara becomes even more important now or the Giants will be searching for a starting center in addition to depth 2007. 

Tiki’s Last Parting Shots?

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

I saw an interview on NFL Network from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii with Tiki Barber. Tiki talked about Eli taking over next year as one of the team’s leaders, and it would be easier to do with Tiki himself no longer on the roster. He also mentioned how Phil Simms was given a rough ride early in his career and paralleled it to Manning. So far, so good

Then Tiki talked about Coughlin and it was like the 2006 season all over again. He said Coughlin, and I’m paraphrasing, “doesn’t connect with today’s players and has to change his style”. What can we learn for all this? First, Tiki doesn’t like Coughlin’s approach, but we knew that already. Second, despite his feelings, Tiki would have his most productive years and solve his “fumble-itis” under TC, becoming one of the elite players in the entire league. Additionally, the team itself has had success under Coughlin (11-5 in 2005, 6-2 in 2006 until injuries would decimate the team). That tells me  liking your coach isn’t directly correlated to winning. The point I am trying to make is that Tiki Barber more than any player on the roster has been source of the Giants’ dysfunction. Let’s look at the Giants high profile players. Strahan never questions the coach. Plaixco? He’ll whine and slouch but never goes after the staff. Now Shockey talked about being out-coached after the Seattle game, but that was a one time thing and I chalk that up to just being totally frustrated. He would not only have said out-coached and out-played but also “out-something elsed” if he could have thought of it. Shockey would apologize for those comments. All three of those talented players have their faults, but it’s never directed at the head coach.

But Tiki repeatedly would go after Coughlin, and the press would pick up on it and ride with it because of their own dislike of Coughlin’s abrasive style towards them. Even when Tiki wasn’t criticizing, there was the retirement issue or the “I’m not getting any younger/have to win now” mantra. This helped create a media whirlwind that ultimately weighed on the team, and along with injuries, sent the team spiraling downward. With Tiki not around  anymore, I expect things to be a lot more stable in the locker room in 2007. How the Giants are going to makeup Tiki’s productivity as a football player is a subject for another day.