New York Giants 1999 NFL Free Agency Preview
The Giants are obviously looking to upgrade their talent level at a number of positions, mostly on offense. They will look to the draft, which is held on April 17-18th, and free agency, which begins on February 12th and will continue on into July. Last off-season, the Giants signed veteran free agents QB Kent Graham, HB Gary Brown, HB LeShon Johnson, and CB Jeremy Lincoln. Graham and Brown became the starters at their respective positions. OG Ron Stone and DT Robert Harris are also starters who came to the Giants as free agents.
The first priority will be to retain those Giants who will be unrestricted and restricted free agents themselves and who the team wants to keep. Emphasis will be on re-signing LT Roman Oben (restricted), CB Conrad Hamilton (restricted), FS Percy Ellsworth (restricted), WR Amani Toomer (restricted), MLB Corey Widmer (unrestricted), and DE Chad Bratzke (unrestricted). Bratzke may be the most difficult to re-sign and is probably heading elsewhere for the big money. Then there are a number of lesser known players who the Giants will also want to return — guys like MLB Doug Colman, WLB Scott Galyon, DT Bernard Holsey, and OC Lance Scott. Some may not be invited to return. OG Greg Bishop, CB Jeremy Lincoln, OG Lonnie Palelei, TE Alfred Pupunu, SS Rodney Young, and OG Rob Zatechka may all be on the bubble.
After that, the quantity and quality of the free agents signed by the Giants will largely be determined on how much salary cap room they have. Some salaries will be re-structured. Salaries of some back-ups (QB Danny Kanell, FS Tito Wooten, OLB Corey Miller, CB Carlton Gray, HB Tyrone Wheatley) are significant and will weigh against the cap even if waived or traded — if these players have high unamortized bonuses remaining. Also, the Giants may wait for the frantic free agent feeding frenzy to die down and then shop for bargains when more teams are “capped-out” like they did last year with Gary Brown. Additional bodies also become available after June 1st when high-priced players are often released by clubs looking to defer salary cap hits until the ensuing year. Thus, don’t be surprised if the Giants are more active in June or July than in February or March.
The following is a list of players by position who interest me and who are currently (as of 2/2/99) scheduled to become free agents on February 12th. Please note, that many of these players will be re-signed or protected (with “Franchise” or “Transition” tags) by their respective clubs before that date and thus will not be available. (UFA=Unrestricted Free Agent; RFA= Restricted Free Agent).
Offensive Linemen: The Giants obviously would like to upgrade here, primarily looking for a guard or right tackle. Orlando Brown and Adam Timmerman look to be the prizes. Anthony Redmon could be a second-tier guy the Giants look at because of the McNally connection.
- RT Orlando Brown, UFA, Ravens — Underrated. Solid, steady performer at right tackle. Huge — 6-7, 340lbs. Good run blocker. Will turn 29 this year. The Ravens may protect him with the “Franchise” tag.
- OG Adam Timmerman, UFA, Packers — One of the Packers’ steadiest linemen. A consistent and improving player. Enjoys the physical aspect of the game. Will be only 28. Packers doubt they can re-sign him.
- OC Dave Wohlabaugh, UFA, Patriots — Young, physical, aggressive lineman. Has been inconsistent. Patriots very much want to re-sign. Patriots may protect him with a “Franchise” or “Transition” tag.
- OC/OG Wally Williams, UFA, Ravens — Some questions about attitude…got off to a slow start last year after a six week holdout. Solid player who can play both center or guard. Protected with the Franchise tag last year. Will turn 28 in 1999.
- LT/LG Blake Brockermeyer, UFA, Panthers — Former 1995 first rounder. Big and physical. Better run blocker than pass blocker. Somewhat inconsistent, but improving. Didn’t have a great relationship with former Panther and current Giants OL coach Jim McNally. Panthers could use “Franchise” tag on him.
- OG Brian DeMarco, UFA, Jaguars — Huge and strong, fourth-year player who is still developing. Good run blocker, sometimes struggles in pass protection. Jaguars may not be able to afford to keep him.
- OC Mark Stepnoski, UFA, Titans — Older (32 in 1999) and smaller (6-2, 265lbs) than ideal, but a guy who plays at a high level and knows how to use leverage. Veteran leader who has played on Super Bowl teams. Looking to leave Tennessee.
- OG Matt O’Dwyer, UFA, Jets — Former 1995 second rounder who plays with an attitude. Improving. Temper can be a problem. Jets may not be able to afford to keep him.
- OG Anthony Redmon, UFA, Panthers — Big (6-4, 310lbs) guard who the Panthers would like to keep. A brawler — he really improved in the second half of the season with the Panthers in 1998. Will be 28. Has connection to current Giants’ OL Coach Jim McNally.
- RT/OG Jerry Ostroski, UFA, Bills — Big (6-4, 310lbs), solid player who has experience at both right tackle and guard. Likely to re-sign with the Bills.
- OC Cory Raymer, UFA, Redskins — Young center who finally stayed healthy after two injury-marred seasons. Improving player.
- RT Jon Runyan, RFA, Titans — Big, improving right tackle. Consistent and durable. Lacks great feet, but can really move defenders off the line of scrimmage. Young, will turn 26 in 1999. Titans are trying to re-sign him, but may not be able to match offer if he hits the open market.
- OG Ken Blackman, RFA, Bengals — Coming off of a knee injury so he would have to be check out medically and would come with a risk. Big, solid guard who will only be 27.
- RT James Dexter, RFA, Cardinals — Improving player with excellent size (6-7, 320lbs). Gives a good effort. Will turn 26.
Tight Ends: Giants need a credible pass receiving threat at tight end and Head Coach Jim Fassel regularly mentions this as a need now. With Mark Bruener off the list and it looking like Christian Fauria will re-sign with Seattle, David Sloan and Jamie Asher look like the best of the bunch. The Giants are supposedly interested in Pete Mitchell.
- TE David Sloan, UFA, Lions — Good upside, but has missed a lot of time with knee problems — has to be checked out. Supposedly is healthy now. Good blocker and receiver. Underrated player.
- TE Jamie Asher, UFA, Redskins — Young (27) TE with OK size (6-3, 245lbs). More of a pass receiver than blocker. Runs good routes and has good hands. Can get down the field, but must do more with the ball after the catch. Finished year on Injured Reserve. Most likely won’t return to Skins as Stephen Alexander becomes new starter.
- TE Christian Fauria, UFA, Seahawks — Good receiver, improving as blocker. Dedicated, plays the game with passion. Became starter finally in 1998 after an injury-plagued past. Will turn 28. Expected to re-sign with Seattle.
- TE Pete Mitchell, UFA, Jaguars — Good receiver, below average blocker. Consistent, knows how to get open. Smaller than ideal (6-2, 240lbs) and this hurts his blocking and the running game. Will turn 28. Jags may slap “Transition” tag on him.
- TE Kyle Brady, UFA, Jets — Former high first rounder who is solid, but never lived up to lofty expectations. Better blocker than receiver. Not real fluid. Jets have slapped “Transition” tag on him which means he’s not likely to leave.
- TE Carlester Crumpler, UFA, Seahawks — Former starter who lost job to Christian Fauria last season. Solid but unspectacular player. Has decent speed, but inconsistent hands. Good size (6-6, 260lbs) — will turn 28 in 1999.
- TE Greg DeLong, UFA, Vikings — Receiving, H-Back-type TE. Solid player who is a back-up on the Vikings. Will turn 27 in 1999.
- TE Marco Battaglia, RFA, Bengals — Young (26) TE with OK size (6-2, 250lbs). Receiving-type TE, not a great blocker.
- TE Jay Riemersma, RFA, Bills — Receiving-type TE who Doug Flutie loves to use in the red zone. Below average blocker.
Running Backs: There isn’t much out there. David Palmer might be a nice addition if the Giants don’t think Tiki Barber can get it done.
- HB David Palmer, UFA, Vikings — Very good third down back and returner. Makes big plays. On the small side (5-8, 175lbs). Will turn 27 in 1999.
- HB Eric Bieniemy, UFA, Bengals — Well respected team leader who is starting to slow down. Very good special teams player and a decent third down back. Will turn 30.
Quarterbacks: Not much out there here either. Jeff Lewis is clearly the best of the bunch. Giants may want to take a peak at Gannon and Pederson.
- QB Jeff Lewis, RFA, Broncos — Knee injury sidelined him all of 1998. Considered strong candidate for possible heir to John Elway. Has impressed in preseason since coming to the Broncos in 1996 as a 4th round draft pick. Strong arm and mobile. Giants are among several teams rumored to be interested in his services. Will turn 26 in 1999.
- QB Trent Green, UFA, Redskins — Former third stringer who came out of nowhere to start in 1998. Lacks powerful arm, but is mobile and is accurate. Improving and showed good leadership. Skins want to bring him back, but Browns are supposedly hot after his services. Will turn 29 in 1999.
- QB Rich Gannon, UFA, Chiefs — Well-traveled veteran who lacks rocket for an arm, but who is mobile and savvy. Will turn 33 in 1999.
- QB Doug Pederson, UFA, Packers — Principle back-up behind Brett Favre. Looking for chance to start. Decent player and knows the West Coast Offense. Has impressed in the preseason. Will turn 31 in 1999.
Defensive Linemen: The defensive ends listed here are mainly options only if Chad Bratzke does not re-sign.
- DE Chidi Ahanotu, UFA, Buccaneers — Hardworking, overachiever. Perhaps the Bucs most consistent lineman and he can rush the passer. Coming off of shoulder surgery. Bucs may slap “Franchise” tag on him.
- DE Derrick Alexander, UFA, Vikings — Former first rounder who hasn’t lived up to high expectations. Coming off his best season, but he’s not a top pass rusher (7.5 sacks in 1998). Solid player. Vikings may not be able to afford to keep him. Will turn 26 in 1999.
- DE Dan Footman, UFA, Colts — Veteran who had a fine 1997 campaign (10.5 sacks), but who was missed most of 1998 with a knee injury. Colts are not likely to keep him. Older player — will turn 30 in 1999.
- DE John Burrough, UFA, Falcons — Back-up player in Atlanta who has good size (6-5, 275lbs) and who will turn 27 in 1999. Steady player.
Linebackers: The middle linebackers listed here are mainly options only if Corey Widmer does not re-sign. Lamont Hollinquest, Keith Burns, and Steve Morrison are very good special teams players who may be able to compete for a starting job.
- SLB Jamir Miller, UFA, Cardinals — A former number one who is finally living up to expectations. Big (6-4, 266lbs) and can rush the passer. Wants big money and the Cards may slap the “Franchise” tag on him. Will turn 26 in 1999.
- SLB Lamont Hollinquest, UFA, Packers — Solid back-up for the Packers, but wants to start. Excellent special teams player. Durable and athletic. Good size at 6-3, 250lbs. Will turn 29 in 1999.
- MLB Stephen Boyd, UFA, Lions — One of the best middle linebackers in the game. Smaller than ideal, but hardworking and quick. Makes big plays. Coming off a couple of shoulder surgeries which may influence league interest. Priority for the Lions to re-sign.
- MLB Marcus Patton, UFA, Redskins — Leading tackler on the Redskins. Smaller (6-2, 236lbs) and older (32 in 1999) than ideal, but plays the game with a passion and an attitude. Likely to leave Skins.
- SLB Todd Collins, UFA, Patriots — Good run stuffer who is sometimes exposed in coverage. Has been injury-prone. Will turn 29.
- SLB/MLB Michael Barber, UFA, Colts — Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seahawks in 1995. Can play outside or inside. Has good bulk (246lbs). Colts would like to re-sign him as they see him as a potential starter (was a back-up last year).
- LB Steve Morrison, UFA, Colts — Back-up player on the Colts who has played all three linebacker spots. Good special teams player. Good size at 6-3, 246lbs. Will turn 27 in 1999.
- MLB Keith Burns, UFA, Broncos — Back-up player who may be looking to move on in order to start. Bronco’s best special teams player. Tough. Plays inside, but may be able to handle outside responsibilities too. Will turn 27 in 1999.
- LB Donta Jones, UFA, Steelers — Valuable back-up player for the Steelers who is looking to leave because he wants to start. Has played well when he has filled in for injured starters. Played inside and outside in the 3-4 defense. Average size (6-2, 235lbs). Will turn 27.
Safeties: These safeties would interest me more mainly if Percy Ellsworth and Tito Wooten depart and the Giants want Shaun Williams to compete at strong safety with Sam Garnes.
- FS Darren Perry, UFA, Steelers — Solid player who rarely makes mistakes. Makes plays. Doesn’t have great speed. Will turn 30 in 1999.
- FS/SS Lethon Flowers, UFA, Steelers — Highly regarded back-up who has started. Hard hitting safety who can play either strong or free. Decent size (6-0, 211lbs) and young (will turn 26 in 1999).
- FS Orlando Thomas, UFA, Vikings — Excellent hitter and has been a play-maker in the past versus the passing game. Set back by a knee injury suffered a few years ago, but seems to have recovered fully. Vikings may not be able to afford to keep him. Good size (6-1, 214lbs) and will turn 27 in 1999.
- FS Kwamie Lassiter, UFA, Cardinals — Came on to start after losing training camp battle. Cards’ big play man in the secondary last year with eight interceptions. Will turn 29.