Archive for the ‘2008 Free Agency’ Category

Ward Back In Fold

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Giant fans got a pleasant surprise last Friday, as Derrick Ward was signed to a one year deal at a very reasonable $1 million dollars. I had pegged Ward as the least important free agent of the big three (Mitchell, Wilson, Ward) this offseason, considering the talent the Giants have in their offensive backfield. But getting him back, and at this price, can only be considered a plus. He knows the system, coaches, players, yada yada yada.

Coming back to G-Men tells me the interest in Ward, initially embellished by his agent, wasn’t very high. His history of being injured, plus the broken leg this year certainly decreased his value. But in this age of high spending for even marginal players, I am surprised he couldn’t get a better deal somewhere else in terms of money and playing time. I definitely thought some team would pick him up as a number two back. His return to the Giants puts him third on the depth chart, behind Jacobs and Bradshaw.

That, of course, can change. Jacobs must still prove he is durable enough to pound away for 16 games. Bradshaw, who I suspect may end up being the best of the bunch, still has a small sample size of games. Ward will get touches no doubt, but who knows how it all plays out. Remember, if Ward hadn’t gotten hurt last year, would we even know what we really had in Bradshaw? It’s a great problem to have, and when you throw in Reuben Droughns, the Giants easily have the deepest backfield in the NFL.  

Giants Upgrade To Carr

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

The Giants finally addressed an area I have been harping on for over a year now: acquiring a legit backup QB. They did it by signing David Carr, the number one overall pick in 2002. If you are keeping count, the Giants now have two players selected number one overall, both amazingly at the QB position: Manning (2004) and now Carr. Not sure if this is a first time thing for a team at any position, let alone QB. 

Carr is a six year veteran who has in no way lived up to his lofty draft status. So how does he help the Giants? He should be viewed as a backup only, combining his playing experience with a surrounding cast that easily is the most talented he has dealt with, which makes him a viable option if the Giants need to turn to him. Carr clearly has all the physical skills and being reunited with his former head coach, Chris Palmer, can only be viewed as positives. So what are the negatives?

Despite his physical ability, Carr’s most glaring weakness is field awareness. There is a reason he has been one of the most sacked QB over his time in the NFL. Some of it is due to poor offensive lines (remember, the Texans were an expansion team), but some of it is clearly his pocket presence. I read something about his season last year in Carolina, who had four different starting quarterbacks including Carr.  Carr predictably was the most sacked of the four. One of those was ancient, totally immobile Vinnie Testaverdie. I think you get the point.

There’s couple things going on here. First, Carr holds the ball too long, and secondly, either doesn’t see open receivers or is unwilling to throw to an “NFL open” receiver. Being open in college and being open in the NFL are two different animals.  Holding the ball too long is a double edged sword. While it can lead to sacks, it can also lead to big plays. Phil Simms was criticized for holding the ball too long. Indeed, he’s the most sacked QB in NFL history. But Simms also made big plays because of this same fault.

So is Carr a plus or a minus for the Giants? By this post’s title, you know how I feel. He is a veteran with skills. And like I said, he will now be viewed as a backup rather than a number one pick expected to carry an NFL team. Combine that with a culture that is absolutely thriving right now in East Rutherford, Carr has a good chance to succeed. But of course, let’s just hope he never gets that chance to prove it. Carr is simply insurance, and insurance is something you never want to have to use.

Meet Sammy Knight

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Jerry Reese decided on a more economic option to replace Gibril Wilson by signing 11 year vet Sammy Knight, most recently of the Jags. The book on Knight at this point in his career is that he still plays very physical in the box, but lacks speed. I believe the Giants will play him at strong safety and look to Michael Johnson to take over full time at free safety (although both positions are interchangable in the Giants’ scheme). That would make James Butler and most likely a first day draft pick to fill out the depth at safety.

There are some good traits I like about Knight. He’s only missed two games in his entire career, is a strong tackler, and by all accounts is a very instinctive player. He’ll provide a nice veteran presence at the safety spot, similar to what Sam Madison brings to the corners. Plus he has ties with Giants’ secondary coach Peter Giunta while in Kansas City.

What are my concerns? Everything I read is that Knight has slowed, but that’s to be expected after 11 years in the NFL. Does he have Will Demps written all over him? Demps was a year removed from a knee injury and clashed with the coaching staff in his single season with the Giants. Knight on the otherhand has been relatively healthy and commended as a total team guy in all the reports I have read. Considering the small investment the Giants have made in Knight, I think this is a good risk to reward signing, especially when you consider the money being thrown at the other free agents at this position so far.  

Why WR Isn’t On The Giants Radar

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Javon Walker, recently cut by the Broncos, has been rumored to have interest by no less than 10 teams. The Giants are one of them. But I feel taking a flier on Walker or any other free agent wideout is a longshot for many reasons this offseason.

Plaxico Burress has established himself in three years with the Giants as a top flight, number one receiver. His opposite number, Amani Toomer, has been the perfect second fiddle to Plax.  Coming off a serious knee injury, Toomer came back to play fairly well in 2007, despite a few rocky periods. But Toomer finished very strong by being simply clutch in the playoffs. This may sound sappy, but Toomer deserves to come back for the final year of his contract at full price. Many had speculated, mainly during the regular season, that he’d only be back with a pay cut. Consider it a reward for being one of the best wideouts in the storied history of this franchise. And it’s reasonable to suggest that Toomer, although a year older, comes back a bit stronger after a full year building the knee back up. 

 So the first two slots are set. Make that the first three slots. Steve Smith has a lock on the third down receiver title. Hurt for most of the season, he played huge during the playoff run. He and Manning appeared to be in sync big time, a terrific sign. Then there is Sinorice Moss. The Giants aren’t about to give up on Moss…yet. He has to show something this year. I’ll be the first to say I don’t think they have utilized him the best way (more deep routes, less wide receiver sceens please). We’ve seen small glimpses of ability, but 2008 must be the year for him to break through or the Giants will look elsewhere.  Breathing down Moss’ neck are David Tyree, Dominic Hixon (who we hear Reese is very high on), and Michael Jennings who will battle for the fifth, and possibly sixth, roster spots. 

And when you consider the Giants will have a fine tandem of Jeremy Shockey and Kevin Boss at the tight end spot, the entire receiving core looks strong. Don’t overlook the tight end position when evaluating the passing game. Look for the Giants to give a lot of double tight end looks next season.

So where exactly would another WR fit in? I look for the Giants to go for a WR in free agency or the draft as a high priority in 2009. Plax will be a year older, Toomer could be at the end of his NFL career, and an evaluation of Moss will have been made. The Giants can get through another season with this group and focus on other areas of the team.  I only see the draft as the area where another WR could possibly be picked up, and only if it’s a situation where that player is rated too high to pass up.

K-Mitch, Torbor, Wilson Depart

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

The Giants lost three of their four free agents on the first day. 

After four years as a backup, you had to figure Reggie Torbor wanted to get a crack at starting in the NFL. That wasn’t going to happen in New York, so his choice to leave was an easy one. With Miami, he’ll get that chance and get paid starter’s money.

The loss of Mitchell is a bit disappointing. I’d sum up Mitchell as being durable, dependable, and versatile. He played steady ball for the champs, and I am sure all Giant fans wish him well. Buffalo didn’t break the bank to get him, so I am little surprised the Giants didn’t match the offer. But, what it clearly signals to me they feel third year Gerris Wilkinson is ready to start and want to see what he can do. Interestingly, Chicago’s Lance Briggs is receiving little to no interest. Again, as I stated in my free agency post, could the Giants make a run at him?

Courtesy of the Raiders, Gibril Wilson will be the third hightest paid safety in the NFL next season, and the Giants shouldn’t and didn’t match that. I thought Wilson was going to be one of those play-making type safeties after I saw him in his rookie year of 2004, but he never got back to that level. He was very solid this year (coincidently his walk year) but will be simply overpaid with his new contract. The Giants can find a suitable, less costly replacement in free agency, or Michael Johnson could be ready to take over. The draft will addess this area for depth.

Finally, I expect Derrick Ward to make it a perfect 4-4 in free agent defects. Ward knows he’ll be third string here behind Jacobs and Bradshaw, and much like Torbor, wants a chance to start (and be compensated accordingly).  He’s flashed when healthy, but has history of injuries which could scare teams away from giving him what he thinks he is worth. There is a small chance he could return. If not, the Giants will have to decide to either keep Droughns as the third back or draft/sign a player. The Giants have had remarkable success eyeing RB’s so I am not concerned a bit.

I haven’t read much about player visits to the Giants, so I think Jerry Reese is just sitting back and waiting to see how things settle down after the initial surge of free agency.  

Free Agency Preview

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

This year in my free agency preview, I’ve broken down the team’s needs into two areas: areas of immediate need (positions where the Giants need help and must target these spots in free agency and/or the draft this year) and areas to build depth.

Areas of immediate need:

None, provided current players are resigned

Areas to build depth:

S, CB, LB, DE, OL, QB

First, let’s start by stating that the Giants’ roster is in terrific shape. The team is young for the most part at every position and because of last year’s fantastic draft and waiver wire pickups (see Dominic Hixon, Madison Hedgecock) has quality across the board and will bring back a very talented team. I expect GM Jerry Reese to take a similar approach to last year, opting to build via the draft rather than free agency. Despite their excellent salary cap position, the Giants would be wise to take a pass on getting into a spending contest in acquiring a marquee player (most teams are in very good cap shape) and use a portion of their money to not only sign their own free agents, but extend the contracts of current players before free agency becomes an issue. That’s why my areas of immediate need are described as none, with the caveat being they must resign their own. Take care of in-house first. Offensively, the only significant name is Derrick Ward, and while I like Ward, I’d rather use the extra money if necessary on Mitchell and/or Wilson. Running back, in my estimation, is the easiest position in the draft to obtain a good player, especially in rounds 2-4. The Giants’ defense finished in the top 10 last year and made great strides from the year before. They are a good defense that turned it on full throttle by the playoffs. What this team has an opportunity to do is become a very good to dominating defense on a more consistent basis if they play their chips right. Let’s take a closer look.

I would like to see the Giants bring back the following free agents (where “R” designates restricted):

  • Gibril Wilson
  • Kawika Mitchell
  • Derrick Ward
  • Jeff Feagles (resigned, February 13th)
  • Lawrence Tynes (resigned, February 25th)
  • James Butler (R)

Safety:

I feel the Giants are a ball-hawking safety away from really having an outstanding defense, someone along the lines of Bob Sanders or Troy Polamalo. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in free agency or the draft that fits the bill. James Butler is the proverbial whipping boy of most Giant bloggers and discussion boards. And while I have taken my shots at him on occassion, one quote from Steve Spagnuolo makes me take notice: “He’s the guy back there who keeps things together.” Say what you want about Butler, he was the starting safety on a Super Bowl winning team. Could the Giants do better? Certainly. Should they let him walk? No way. He’s restricted, so bring him back for at least one more season, and at the very worse, he’s a very good backup. That brings us to Gibril Wilson, the real key to this discussion. Early counts say he wants a boatload of money, which could scare the Giants off. Wilson is a solid player and a legit NFL starting safety. But he is no Bob Sanders. The Giants won’t overspend, and here’s hoping a common ground can be worked out, because with Wilson, Michael Johnson (who could be ready to start), and a draft pick the Giants would have a nice foursome of safeties. Losing him would quickly categorize this as an area of immediate need. Two unrestricted names in the free agent pool are Madieu Williams (Cincy) and Eugene Wilson (NE), and if the Giants lose Gibril one of those could be a suitable replacement. Wilson has played on Super Bowl teams, plus has some versatility (having played CB in college).

Corner:

Aaron Ross was an outstanding pick by Jerry Reese and made a quick transition to the NFL game. The idea behind obtaining another corner is to groom someone to replace veteran Sam Madison, eventually, and team with Ross. Kevin Dockery is a classic nickel/dime corner and the reborn Corey Webster gives the team depth. For all I know, Webster could be the eventual replacement for Madison based on his late season play, but for now, I am willing to be satisfied with him as a competent corner in the rotation, something he didn’t display for most of his career. Free agents corners cost a bundle (in fact, NE’s Assante Samuel could command the most money of all FA’s), so I’d rather see the draft be used here.

Linebacker:

Much like safety, this position hinges on retaining our own. The Giants have two free agents, Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor. Simply stated, you don’t get to bring both guys back. Torbor probably wants a chance to start in the league after four years as a reserve, and if the Giants bring back Mitchell (my preferred choice) then Torbor goes elsewhere. If Mitchell wants too much in the Giants’ estimation, then Torbor could be a less costly fit. As I said, Mitchell is the obvious choice. The guy is productive, and most importantly, doesn’t miss games. He’s steady, and behind that very good defensive line, that’s all you need. It will come down to how much he is asking for, as teams from around the league are very aware of how well he played this season. If the Giants were to lose both, that means third year man Gerris Wilkinson would be anointed the starter and they’d be left with only Chase Blackburn and Zach DeOssie as the main reserves, creating a depth problem. If the Giants were to lose Mitchell and Torbor, could the Bear’s Lance Briggs be a possibility (note: he’s close with Antonio Pierce)? Speaking of Antonio, drafting his eventual replacement should not be considered out of the question.

Defensive End:

What you say? Remember when the Giants drafted Kiwi in 2006? Who did the Giants have already on the line? Say it with me: Strahan, Osi, and Tuck. They were all on the roster and injury free. And of course we all threw our hands up and mocked the pick. As it turns out, injuries that year proved why you can never have enough depth. And when you consider Kiwi is still slated to play linebacker this year combined with Strahan possibly not returning,  drafting and developing another end is definitely something to consider.

Offensive Line:

This unit continues to be one of the main reasons for the team’s success. Just like with the defensive line, if you can control the line of scrimmage you just put yourself in a better position to win games in the NFL. So why not continue to stockpile depth on such an important unit? The entire line is relatively young and signed. Grey Ruegamer is a solid veteran backup on the inside and tackle Guy Whimper has looked good in limited action. I’d like to see the Giants maybe take a look at a center/guard prospect to eventually replace Ruegamer. As always, drafting a prospect at tackle should never be discounted, and this year is very deep at OT.

Quarterback:

Second year in a row I am mentioning this. Last year, I had to clearly state it didn’t concern the starter, Eli Manning. After this season, that needs no clarification. Manning has started every game of his young career. Are you confident enough if he was to miss three weeks with an injury that our current backups could do the job? Trent Green was just released by Miami, and is the perfect type of veteran the Giants could use. It’s a position to not neglect. Todd Collins also could be a nice pickup, or if released, Mark Brunell who has ties to Coughlin.

After the free agency period settles down and we move closer to the end of April, I’ll re-evaluate the Giants roster and preview the 2008 NFL draft.