Archive for the ‘2009 Free Agency’ Category

Reese Gone Wild

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I mean that in a good way. Not Dan Snyder wild. So much for my prediction that the Giants wouldn’t be big players in the free agent market. The weekend marked a bonanza as Jerry Reese made three signings, each one bigger than the last. Super Bowls aren’t won in March, but you’ve got to be smiling if you root for Big Blue.

Let’s start with what happened on Thursday. The Giants signed Brandon Jacobs to a four year deal that was fair to both sides. Want to know why Jacobs is one of the players featured on this site’s home page banner? He is the ultimate team player. You can see it in the way he conducts himself on the field, and this contract also proves it. Jacobs wanted to be here and both sides made it happen.

With Friday came the rumors of OLB Michael Boley already in discussions with the Giants. The deal got done and the Giants helped themselves in the one weak spot on this roster: linebacking. Boley looked to be Pro Bowl material after 2007, but lost his job last year when he didn’t fit into Mike Smith’s new defense in Atlanta as a strong side LB. Boley is a bit undersized, but can cover, rush the passer, and play “downhill” as they say. The Giants signed him because they feel he’s a great fit in how they play defense: aggressively. He is also a fine special teams player. Boley, just 26, will play the more suitable weakside with the Giants.

Saturday revealed the Giants were now negotiating with Rocky Bernard, DT from Seattle. Then things got complicated when DE Chris Canty (Dallas) diverted from Washington to East Rutherford because of the Albert Hainsworth signing by the Skins. Would the Giants sign Bernard, who would come with a less expensive price tag, or go for Canty who is younger but would command more money? The Giants got both.

Bernard will be part of a four man rotation at DT, but look for him to pay his biggest dividends on third down, teaming with Tuck, Osi, and Kiwi for the newest fearsome foursome. Canty is a big body (6-7, 300 lbs) who played end in Dallas’ 3-4 scheme. With the Giants 4-3, Canty will move inside and team with Fred Robbins at DT with the first and second down defense. Barry Cofield is the fourth wheel in the interior, but he’ll get his share of reps as the idea is to keep everyone fresh, especially come fourth quarter when games are won and lost. Tuck, Kiwi, Cofield, and Robbins got worn down last year. Getting Osi back plus these signings ensure that won’t happen again.

So what does all this mean? Initially, my instincts told me the chips were now there for a trade, something along the lines of Kiwi for a player like Braylon Edwards. But further inspection reveals the Giants are already planning for 2010. Fred Robbins has been one of those unheralded players that was truly a great free agent signing by the Giants back in 2004. But he’ll be 32 and a free agent after this year and it’s obvious that signing Canty and Bernard are meant for the longer haul. Cofield, also a free agent in 2010, would be the more likely candidate to be resigned. Cofield is younger and also proven his worth in this league.

This also means the Giants have the best DL and OL in the league right now, and that’s a recipe for winning NFL games. I don’t think these three defensive additions necessarily dictates the Giants will draft heavily on the offensive side of the ball. An eventual successor for Antonio Pierce and a strong side backer prospect would help too. Again, they have positioned themselves for taking the best available athlete. And with as many as 11 picks, things could get very interesting come draft day.

Free Agency Preview

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

How will the Giants play in free agency this year? Will they, like last year, stay in-house and look to make hay in the draft? Or with as many eight picks in the first five rounds, will Jerry Reese be tempted to use these available chips to play the trade game and go after what appears to be the team’s only glaring weakness: a number one receiving threat?

Clearly, the number one objective in free agency for the Giants should be to resign Brandon Jacobs, and the Giants have addressed this by franchising the big guy. Jacobs, to me, is the tone setter of this offense. While health issues are always a concern with him, I just think the combination of speed and power is too unique to let get away. I could see Jacobs being the lead dog for the next few years, followed by a career similar to how is he started: a situational, short yardage back.

David Carr was a smart resigning. He’s got starting experience, the staff obviously likes him, and could handle the job adequately if ever called upon. And it gives the Giants a chance to develop third stringer Andre Woodson.

Kevin Dockery, a restricted free agent, was tendered and it was a wise move to keep him for at least one more year. He is a very solid fourth corner and is nice insurance in case Webster, Ross, or Thomas would miss any time due to injury. Likewise, TE Darcy Johnson, DE Dave Tollefson, and DT Leger Douzable were all tendered to help provide depth at a minimum price, provided they can make the team out of training camp. Expect Danny Ware to be tendered shortly as well.

Let me comment on a few players I would obviously want back, but from a financial standpoint, probably wont’ be possible.

James Butler could be this year’s Gibril Wilson (who coincidently became available on Saturday). Will another team over value him and throw more money than the Giants are willing to match? Considering Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson have both shown they can start in this league, I think Butler only comes back at a number the Giants feel is fair. That number won’t be attractive to Butler, surely.

Derrick Ward is a very good back. Ward would like to go to a team where he can be the number one back. Problem is, in today’s NFL, how many teams could Ward go to where he would be the clear cut number one? Not many, and when you consider many teams do or would like to implement the two back rotational system that has become popular in the NFL, Ward faces the same situation here as anywhere else: splitting time. The big difference, however, is what a team would pay Ward. With Jacobs and Ward both free agents, the Giants can’t be expected to afford both. So while Ward might end up getting the same amount of carries elsewhere as he did here, he surely will get a bigger payout.

Then there’s Amani Toomer, and what can we say about him? What an outstanding and clutch player he has been for the Giants, but at 35 it is time for this receiving corp to move on. Dominik Hixon and Steve Smith are ready to hold down the number two and three slots.

So where do the Giants look in free agency? This year’s crop as a whole again doesn’t appear that strong, and with many teams having lots of free cap space in comparison to the Giants (estimated between $10-$20 million) and a record number of players being franchised, I don’t see a lot of movement here from a Giant perspective. But on the flip side, we are talking about a 12-4 team and I also don’t see any major weaknesses either, so that balances things out. Getting a deal ironed out for Jacobs and extending Eli Manning are both high priorities this offseason.

However, without a doubt, the number one question for this team is who will be the number one wide receiver in 2009? Plaxico Burress’ plight has been dissected ad nausea. There doesn’t appear to be any WR on the free agent market that the Giants would be interested in anyway, IMO. As far as a trade, the names of Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards, and Chad Johnson have all been mentioned at some point, but none seem to really be available. The one intriguing name would be Tony Gonzalez, but it’s not a certainty he’ll be on the market with all the changes in KC. Furthermore, how highly do the Giants believe in Kevin Boss’ ceiling? Bringing in Gonzo would certainly affect Boss’ playing time and development. Gonzalez has also said he plans on playing only two more years. On the positive side, Gonzalez is never hurt, is a total team guy, and catches passes regardless who has QB’d the Chiefs. Would he be worth that Giants’ second pick in round two (#61 overall)? I say yes, and then some. Remember last offseason I talked about a double TE offense featuring Shockey and Boss in the passing game. It never happened.

What does all this mean? While the Giants have the chips to play trade, the Giants could be in a real bind. There aren’t many players with Plax’s unique ability in the league. I can’t see them rectifying this situation unless they A) bring back Plax for one last go-around (which I am beginning to believe will happen) or B) take their chances on finding a playmaking offensive player in the draft or via trade. Plan B will probably be taken to some degree notwithstanding. Remember, Plax will be 32 and has fought foot issues, besides everything else going on. After March 31, when Burress’ trial is scheduled, we’ll get closer to an answer.

The areas the Giants will concentrate on come draft time will be adding depth to both lines, hopefully getting a strong side linebacking prospect, and as mentioned above coming up with some sort of playmaker (WR, RB, or TE) on offense to compliment what the Giants already have. I’ll write more on this as free agency progresses and before the draft on April 25.