GIANTS HAVE SEVERAL OFF SEASON TASKS THAT REQUIRE SIGNIFICANT ATTENTION
"The New York
Giants are the reigning champions of the NFL world, but with several of their own free agents set
to hit the open market and the combine within a couple of weeks of their Super
Bowl triumph, the Big Blue front office has had to quickly shift its attention
to the roster and salary cap.Today at Giants 101, we look at some of the pressing tasks on the Giants
1. Address the Cornerback Position
Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara are locked into contracts for the Giants
next season. Webster is one of the league’s most underrated covermen, clearly
serving as the Giants #1 cornerback and playing a big role in both their SB XLII
and SB XLVI campaigns. Amukamara battled a foot injury going into his rookie
season, but did show more confidence down the stretch in the playoffs for New York,
albeit in a limited role.
Outside of that however, the depth chart is currently a little slim, with
Thomas and Aaron
Ross set to hit free agency. Thomas had a Pro Bowl caliber 2010 season,
before missing the 2011 season with an ACL injury. Ross was very inconsistent as
a starter this past season, but certainly picked up his play during the
postseason run, and his primary value comes in his aggressiveness against the
running game. I have to think the Giants will be able to reach an agreement with
Thomas before free agency – as his physicality and playmaking ability from the
cornerback position will be a welcome addition to this defensive unit going
forward. Ross’s inconsistency and demand for a big contract coming off a Super
Bowl season may spell a divorce with the G-Men this off-season.
Beyond that, look for the Giants to consider a middle round pick to bring
into the mix along with Webster, Thomas, and Amukamara, and also possibly bring
back a guy like Bruce Johnson or Brian Witherspoon – who was having a strong
camp for New York
before also going down with a torn ACL.
2. Address the Tight End Position
With Jake Ballard and Travis
Beckum both suffering torn ACL’s late in the Giants 2011 season, the Giants
know they have to bring in another player to compete at the top of the depth
chart at this position.
With JerMichael Finley recently re-signing with Green Bay and the Redskins
putting the franchise tag on Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett, John Carlson, and
Visanthe Shiancoe are now at the top of the list of free agent tight ends.
Bennett has had maturity issues with Dallas, although his upside is certainly
immense, and Carlson and Shiancoe have seen diminishing roles in their
respective offenses over the past season. Bennett is the type of big, athletic
pass catcher New York
could really use alongside Jake Ballard – but the Giants are unlikely to pursue
him unless they feel certain that he’s ready to carry himself as a professional.
Shiancoe is a former Giant and Carlson has some upside, so if a bargain can be
had the Giants may prefer to bring one of the two in. If all fails on the free
agent front, New York
may have to look to a slim tight end draft class to address the question mark
3. Solve the Running Back Puzzle
Will Brandon Jacobs restructure his contract and be back with the team in
2012? That’s the big question in the Giants offensive backfield, and the answer
is very much up in the air. New York was very much in the mix to draft Mark Ingram
prior to last season, but went with Prince Amukamara who fell further down the
draft board than expected.
If Jacobs leaves the team this off-season, the Giants have the option of
bringing in a young, explosive back in the early rounds of the NFL draft – or
looking to a free agent running back class where they may find a number two back
in a Tim Hightower, Michael Bush, or even Peyton Hillis. What do all three have
in common? A physical running style. The Giants offense could use a pass catcher
out of the backfield, so that could be a point of emphasis in potential
additions as well.
4. Replace Mario
Manningham is one of the top Giants free agents likely to leave the team this
off-season, coming off a big postseason performance as the number three receiver
and looking for a big contract and a bigger role offensively. Washington, Tampa
Bay, San Diego, Chicago, and San Francisco could all be potential suitors.
It was clear this season that the Giants passing game was far more
consistently effective when all three receivers were healthy and contributing,
and in turn, finding a replacement for Mario should he leave the team will be of
rather high importance.
On the free agent front, New York could look to Laurent Robinson or Plaxico
Burress – but both options seem unlikely in my mind, as Robinson will likely get
a bigger offer elsewhere, and Burress is getting up there in age and has a shaky
relationship with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.
Don’t be surprised if another early round wideout is added to the mix in
April through the draft, although the Giants have expressed confidence in Jerrel
Jernigan and also re-signed Domenik
Hixon who has had success as a primary pass catcher for this team in past
seasons before injuries took their toll.
5. Osi Umenyiora
What happens with Umenyiora this off-season could have a domino effect on
this Giants defense. If New York decides to move Osi, you will likely see more of
Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end next season creating a bit more of a need for
more talent at the linebacker position. If New York is able to keep Umenyiora, it allows them to
come into 2012 with the same defensive end group (a huge plus), and keep
Kiwanuka as a hybrid type player while giving them more flexibility as to where
to add talent on the defensive side of the ball.
6. The Offensive Line
There were all types of things going on with this unit in 2011 – whether it
be injuries, inconsistency, or guys having to move around and play several
different positions due to both.
Baas had an up and down campaign in his first season as a Giant at center,
and Will Beatty was not able to complete the full season at left tackle with
Diehl had some very difficult games in the regular season, and Kareem
McKenzie is a free agent whose play has slowly deteriorated over the past two
and a half seasons.
It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how Reese and his staff
approach this unit this off-season. Step one is deciding whether McKenzie will
be back with the team next season. From there, the Giants could bring in
competition at a number of different positions along the line.