Antonio Pierce and Free Agency

Last week the Giants released one of their key components to the 2007 championship team. Antonio Pierce won’t go down as one of the greatest linebackers in Giant history, but he will certainly be remembered as a leader and the quarterback of the defense during his tenure. Age and injuries, as always with NFL players, has begun to erode his skills and the Giants have decided to move on. The separation appears to be very amicable on both ends and it’s a nice gesture by the Giants to give Pierce a chance to catch on with someone during free agency, rather than in August had he been a camp casualty. I thought perhaps Pierce could still be one of the team leaders and mentor to his heir apparent, but that heir is going to have to step up immediately, whoever he is. MLB right now is the biggest hole in this defense.

Which brings up to free agency, set to begin on March 5th. With no CBA in place, any player with six years or less is a restricted free agent, instead of the usual four. With that, the strategy is to sign the players at a certain level of compensation, versus losing them for nothing, and bringing them to camp to compete and earn a roster spot. If they are cut, the Giants owe them nothing. The only factor is they take up a training camp roster spot.

The Giants made qualifying offers to every one of their restricted free agents, except Kevin Dockery. Interesting, considering Dockery can be a useful player but who played poorly last year. You’d think the Giants would expect a bounce back year from him, albeit as the fourth corner. My conclusion is the Giants were not happy at all with his attitude, poor play aside. Also surprising were the tenders to Sinorice Moss and CC Brown, two players I cleary don’t see having a future with the team. More importantly, Dominik Hixon and Barry Cofield will be Giants in 2010. Those two were the most important restricted free agents to get qualifying offers to.

There aren’t a lot of big names out there in free agency, mostly due to the CBA. The names most closely associated with the Giants are Cardinals’ MLB Carlos Dansby, the Packers DE Aaron Kampman, and the Pathers’ Julius Peppers. With the release of Pierce, Dansby is a no-brainer but he will command a whole lot of money and years. And with the status of the CBA, I don’t think a conservative franchise like the Giants will bite. Dansby will also be 29 in November. Kampman is a good DE but is coming off an ACL at mid year, so he could come at a bargain price considering his talent level. But again, I think the Giants would shy away. They’ve already seen what DE coming off surgery does in Osi Umenyora. There’s been a ton of trade talk about Umenyoria, but DE’s with his pedigree don’t grow on trees and it’s fully reasonable to expect #72 to be a much better player in 2010. He’s signed and has zero leverage to demand anything. Osi needs to have a good season on the field this season and the Giants know it. The Peppers rumor is just that, a rumor. I can’t see the Giants spending that much money on a guy with a reputation of taking plays (games?) off.

Remembering back to 2007 the Giants did hardly anything in free agency, and instead relied on a great draft class. I think that will be the philosophy starting March 5th, especially considering how last year’s free agent crop worked out. The one factor, however, that could come into play is the opening a new stadium and wanting to do it with a bang. Let’s see what happens. One name I would like to see: running back Darren Sproles. He’d be the final home run piece to an already good offense. Non tendered by San Diego, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

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