Feb 112000
 
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New York Giants 2000 NFL Free Agency Preview

The Giants have a number of needs on both sides of the ball. The offensive line and linebackers are two areas where the Giants will probably be looking for free agent help. Cornerback could also be a priority depending on whether Phillippi Sparks and Conrad Hamilton depart or not. Last off-season, the Giants signed veteran free agents QB Kerry Collins and TE Pete Mitchell. Collins became the starter at the most important position on the field and Mitchell contributed significantly as a valuable clutch receiver. The Giants also lost DE Chad Bratzke, a pass rusher who was sorely missed in 1999.

The Giants will want to retain many of their own restricted and unrestricted free agents. SS Sam Garnes was re-signed in January. HB Tiki Barber (restricted), DT Christian Peter (restricted), MLB Pete Monty (restricted), OC Derek Engler (restricted), QB Mike Cherry (restricted), and P Brad Maynard (restricted) will most likely be retained. The Giants will probably want to keep CB Conrad Hamilton (unrestricted), DT Bernard Holsey (unrestricted), and LB Scott Galyon (unrestricted), but these three may test the free agent waters and go elsewhere. A big decision needs to be made about LT Roman Oben (unrestricted). Roman is talented, but he did not play well in 1999. The Giants also must make a decision about SLB Ryan Phillips (restricted) and WR David Patten (unrestricted). FS Percy Ellsworth (unrestricted), HB LeShon Johnson (unrestricted), CB Jeremy Lincoln (unrestricted), S Brandon Sanders (unrestricted), and PK Cary Blanchard (unrestricted) will probably be allowed to walk.

The quantity and quality of the free agents signed by the Giants will largely be determined on how much salary cap room they have. Much depends on who of their own they re-sign and for how much. Salaries of some already signed veterans will be re-structured. Others may be released (if their remaining unamortized bonuses don’t get in the way). 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 two years ago with Gary Brown. They also waited quite some time before signing Pete Mitchell. 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 ability to attract free agents by the Giants will be helped by the conversion of the home field to grass. It will be hurt by Jim Fassel’s unsteady future in New York.

The following is a list of players by position who interest me and who are currently (as of 2/11/00) scheduled to become free agents on February 11th. Please note, that this list is only limited to players who are still technically affiliated with another team and not players who have been recently waived due to salary cap considerations. The latter is very fluid and difficult to analyze in a static document. In fact, many of the recently waived players such as DE Bruce Smith, LB Lee Woodall, LT Bruce Armstrong, and TE Troy Drayton are better quality than some of the “normal” free agents listed below. (Note: UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent; RFA = Restricted Free Agent).

Offensive Linemen: The offensive line has remained a problem for most of the decade. Consequently, the Giants’ offense has suffered. Even changing offensive line coaches last off-season did not help matters. Much of what the Giants do here depends on how strongly they feel about OT Luke Petitgout and OG Mike Rosenthal. It also depends on whether or not the Giants re-sign LT Roman Oben and whether or not RT Scott Gragg is released. OC Brian Williams has been waived. With so many variables, it is very difficult to predict what the team will do.

Centers:

  • OC Jeff Christy, UFA, Vikings (6-3, 285lbs, 30) – Older, seven-year veteran. A Pro Bowler who mans the pivot for a very talented Minnesota line. Consistent. Not very big, but technically sound. Not a special player. He will be very expensive in free agency and I’m not sure he is worth the price.
  • OC Tom Ackerman, UFA, Saints (6-3, 290lbs, 27) – A 4-year veteran. Back-up for the Saints who can also play guard. Mobile and athletic.
  • OC Jeff Smith, UFA, Chiefs (6-2, 322lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. A valuable reserve for Kansas City who can play center or guard. Excellent size, but not real mobile.
  • OC Robbie Tobeck, UFA, Falcons (6-4, 298lbs, 29) – A 6-year veteran. Had a decent year for Atlanta and can also play guard. Strong and plays with an attitude. Smart. Consistent.
  • OC Tony Mayberry, UFA, Buccaneers (6-4, 302lbs, 31) – Older, 10-year vet. Pro Bowler. Consistent and he gives a good effort. Not very powerful, but a solid technician. May be on the decline.
  • OC Cory Raymer, UFA, Redskins (6-2, 289lbs, 26) – A 5-year veteran. Lacks ideal tools, but is smart and tough.
  • OC Tim Ruddy, UFA, Dolphins (6-3, 300lbs, 27) – A 6-year veteran. Not powerful, but tough and smart. Steady.
  • OC Mike Gruttadauria, UFA, Rams (6-3, 297lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. An overachiever who lacks strength. Gets by more on toughness and effort.
  • OC John Bock, UFA, Dolphins (6-3, 295lbs, 28) – A 5-year veteran reserve who can play center and guard. Tough. Recovering from a knee injury and that needs to be checked out.
  • OC Jay Leeuwenburg, UFA, Bengals (6-3, 290lbs, 30) – An 8-year veteran. Can play center or guard. Competent player. Lacks size, but is smart and consistent. Was a valuable reserve for Cincinnati in 1999.
  • OC Roman Fortin, UFA, Chargers (6-5, 297lbs, 32) – Older, 10-year vet. Not really what a team would ideally be looking for, but a steady player.

Tackles:

  • RT John Runyan, UFA, Titans (6-7, 320lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. A rising star – it is difficult to see the Titans letting him get away. Big and strong.
  • RT Fred Miller, UFA, Rams (6-7, 315lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Good size. Tough and plays with an attitude. Steady player for the Superbowl champs. Not likely to leave Rams.
  • RT Vaughn Parker, UFA, Chargers (6-3, 296lbs, 28) – A 6-year veteran. Lacks ideal size and long arms, but he is a solid player who can aid the running game.

Guards:

  • OG Ruben Brown, UFA, Bills (6-3, 304lbs, 27) – A 5-year veteran. One of the better guards in the game. A Pro Bowler who can maul people. Strong. Has been a bit inconsistent – quick players can give him trouble at times.
  • OG Dan Neil, RFA, Broncos (6-2, 281lbs, 26) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, so he will cost a 3rd rounder (unless Denver tenders him at a 1st round level). Lacks size, but he’s a battler that slugs it out for 60 minutes. Tough and athletic.
  • OG Todd Perry, UFA, Bears (6-5, 308lbs, 29) – A 7-year veteran. Good size and strength. Can run and pass block. Consistent, if unspectacular.
  • OG Ben Coleman, UFA, Jaguars (6-6, 332lbs, 28) – A 7-year veteran. Excellent size. Strong inside presence for the Jaguars. Has played at left tackle in a pinch. Has the tools but has proven to be very inconsistent over his career. Boom-or-bust kind of signing.
  • OG Tom Nutten, RFA, Rams (6-5, 300lbs, 28) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, but since he wasn’t drafted he won’t cost a pick (unless St. Louis tenders him at a 1st round level). Solid starter for the Superbowl champs.
  • OG Jason Layman, UFA, Titans (6-5, 310lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Good size. Lost starting spot to Benji Olsen, but he has talent. Needs to get stronger, but works hard.
  • OG Andy McCollum, UFA, Rams (6-4, 295lbs, 29) – Versatile back-up lineman on the Rams who can play at guard or center. Played well when teammate Tom Nutten was hurt for two games. Overachiever – makes up for lack of athletic ability with technique and attitude. Better blocking for the run.
  • OG Tony Hutson, RFA, Cowboys (6-3, 306lbs, 25) – A 3-year veteran. He is restricted but since he was undrafted, he won’t cost a pick (unless Dallas tenders him at a 1st round level). A player Dallas was high on. Suffered a knee injury last year that needs to be checked out.
  • OG Keith Sims, UFA, Redskins (6-2, 318lbs, 32) – An older 9-year vet. Rebounded in DC last year after being cut by the Dolphins. Had been somewhat of an underachiever in Miami. Has fine tools – it all depends on his attitude. Boom-or-bust signing.
  • OG Everett Lindsay, UFA, Ravens (6-4, 302lbs, 29) – Versatile 6-year vet. Can play anywhere on the offensive line, including center. Not a standout, but capable.
  • OG James Dexter, UFA, Cardinals (6-5, 319lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Can play guard or right tackle. Good size. Improving player. Capable, but nothing special.

Linebackers: Aside from Jessie Armstead, the Giants lack of team speed in the linebacking corps is most distressing. Corey Widmer and Ryan Phillips are average players at best.

Middle:

  • MLB Randall Godfrey, UFA, Cowboys (6-2, 237lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Has also played strongside linebacker. Undersized, but speedy. Can play the run and the pass. Underrated.
  • MLB Ronald McKinnon, UFA, Cardinals (5-11, 240lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Undersized, but speedy. Can be overpowered at times, but he makes plays.
  • MLB Doug Colman, UFA, Titans (6-2, 250lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Waived by the Giants last summer. They may want to bring him back if the team waives Corey Widmer. Good size and OK speed. Knows the Giants’ system. Fine special teams player.

Outside:

  • SLB Joe Bowden, UFA, Titans (5-11, 235lbs, 29) – An 8-year veteran. Can play inside too. Lacks ideal size, but he has good speed.
  • SLB Tedy Bruschi, UFA, Patriots (6-1, 245lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Replaced Todd Collins last year. Hard worker who plays with enthusiasm. Better run defender than in coverage. Can rush the passer.
  • OLB Craig Sauer, UFA, Falcons (6-2, 235lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. A quality back-up and good special teams player in Atlanta.

Cornerbacks: It looks like the Giants are going to let Phillippi Sparks walks. Conrad Hamilton was bothered by a nagging knee injury last year and Jason Sehorn is coming off a broken leg. With the blitzing schemes Defensive Coordinator John Fox likes to use, having quality cornerbacks is essential.

  • CB Thomas Smith, UFA, Bills (5-11, 188lbs, 28) – A 7-year veteran. Very good cover corner. Doesn’t make many interceptions however. Consistent.
  • CB Ashley Ambrose, UFA, Saints (5-10, 185lbs, 29) – Quality cover cornerback who the Saints decided not to “Franchise” at the last minute.
  • CB Todd Lyght, UFA, Rams (6-0, 190lbs, 30) – An older, 9-year veteran. Made the Pro Bowl this past year. The Rams’ best corner. Consistent in coverage and good in run support. Rams have placed the “Transition” tag on him and therefore he is unlikely to leave St. Louis.
  • CB Steve Israel, UFA, Patriots (5-11, 194lbs, 30) – An 8-year veteran. Solid, steady player.
  • CB DeRon Jenkins, UFA, Ravens (5-11, 190lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Former starter who was replaced late by 1st rounder Duane Starks. Has improved every year.
  • CB Tory James, UFA, Broncos (6-2, 195lbs, 26) – A 4-year starter. Quality reserve for the Denver Broncos.

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell was a great addition last off-season and he didn’t cost that much. The team has high hopes for Dan Campbell, but he was still a non-factor last year. Since Mitchell is too small to start and Campbell may not be ready, a solid two-way tight end to replace Howard Cross would be desirable.

  • TE Shannon Sharpe, UFA, Broncos (6-2, 230lbs, 31) – An older, 10-year pro who has expressed interest in being reunited with Jim Fassel. Missed half of 1999 with a broken collarbone. One of the best receiving tight ends in the history of the game. Can get deep…plays like a receiver. Better blocker than given credit for. A trash talker, but he would bring some much needed charisma to the Giants’ offense.
  • TE Greg Clark, RFA, 49ers (6-5, 251lbs, 27) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, so he would cost a 3rd (unless San Francisco tenders him at a 1st round level – it has been reported that they will do so). Improving player. Good blocker and receiver.
  • TE Jay Riemersma, UFA, Bills (6-5, 254lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Receiving-type tight end who has improved his blocking. Not real speedy, but he can run after the catch.
  • TE Jackie Harris, UFA, Titans (6-4, 250lbs, 31) – Older 10-year vet. Decent two-way tight end.

Running Backs: If Gary Brown departs as expected, Joe Montgomery is the only guy on the roster at halfback who has proven he can start – and he’s been injury-prone thus far. Sean Bennett could come on, but the Giants will most likely want to add another body here via free agency or the draft. If Charles Way recovers from knee surgery, he and Greg Comella form a solid duo at fullback.

  • HB Priest Holmes, RFA Ravens (5-9, 205lbs, 26) – A 3-year veteran. A restricted free agent, but since he wasn’t drafted, he won’t cost a pick (unless Baltimore tenders him at a 1st round level). A tough running back who lacks the breakaway dimension. Has proven to be productive when given the chance.
  • HB Adrian Murrell, UFA, Cardinals (5-11, 214lbs, 29) – A 7-year veteran. Coming off a down year after a very good 1998 season. Has good size and quick feet. Not real fast, but he can cut back.
  • HB Karim Abdul-Jabbar, UFA, Browns (5-10, 205, 25) – A 4-year veteran. Slashing-type runner with good vision. Tough, but lacks speed. Runs a bit upright and isn’t that elusive.

Quarterbacks: With Kent Graham being cut, the Giants need to bring aboard a decent, back-up-type quarterback.

  • QB Jay Fiedler, UFA, Jaguars (6-2, 218lbs, 27) – A 4-year veteran. Decent arm and can get the job done if called upon for the short-term.
  • QB Shane Matthews, UFA, Bears (6-3, 196lbs, 29) – A 6-year veteran. Can read defenses, but doesn’t have a strong arm. Consistent.
  • QB Stoney Case, UFA, Ravens (6-3, 201lbs, 27) – A 5-year veteran. Has good tools and mobility. Tough. Seems to lack a feel for the passing game. Could surprise.

Defensive Linemen: With so much money invested in Michael Strahan and Cedric Jones, it is difficult to see the Giants signing an expensive free agent at defensive end. Same with defensive tackle unless the Giants let Robert Harris go. Good defensive linemen cost an arm and a leg in free agency.

Ends:

  • DE Chuck Smith, UFA, Falcons (6-2, 262lbs, 29) – An 8-year veteran. Pass rusher who picked up 10 sacks last year despite playing injured. Disruptive. Hard worker. Looking for big money and he should command it.
  • DE Ndukwe Kalu, RFA, Redskins (6-4, 246lbs, 24) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, but since he wasn’t drafted by the Skins, he won’t cost a pick (unless Washington tenders him at a 1st round level). Pass rushing defensive end who looks like a player on the rise. He’s the kind of guy I’d like to see the Giants take a shot at.
  • DE Orpheus Roye, UFA, Steelers (6-4, 288lbs, 25) – A 4-year veteran. A guy the Steelers very much want to keep. Improving player. Athletic with excellent size. Could play inside too.
  • DE Keith McKenzie, UFA, Packers (6-3, 266lbs, 26) – A 4-year pro. Better pass rusher than run defender. Picked up 8 sacks in each of the past two seasons. Plays hard.
  • DE Sean Moran, UFA, Bills (6-3, 275lbs, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Pass rushing end. Suffered a serious knee injury two years ago and this needs to be checked out.
  • DE Brady Smith, UFA, Saints (6-5, 260, 26) – A 4-year veteran. Started for the injured Joe Johnson. Played well early, but wore down as the season progressed. Better pass rusher than run defender.
  • DE Marco Coleman, UFA, Redskins (6-3, 267lbs, 29) – An 8-year veteran. A very solid, but unspectacular player. Team leader and hard worker. Plays the run well and showed improved pass rush last year.

Tackles:

  • DT Sam Adams, UFA, Seahawks (6-3, 300lbs, 26) – A 6-year veteran. Very inconsistent motor. When motivated and in shape, he can be a very disruptive player. Played better this year, a contract year, than last season. Boom-or-bust signing.
  • DT Pat Williams, RFA, Bills (6-3, 270lbs, 25) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, but since he was undrafted, he won’t cost a pick (unless Buffalo tenders him at a 1st round level). Active reserve for Buffalo who is ready to start. Lacks size, but disengages from blocks well and makes plays.
  • DT Jason Ferguson, RFA, Jets (6-3, 305lbs, 25) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, he would cost a 7th rounder (unless New York tenders him at a 1st round level). Has good explosion and can penetrate. More of a run defender, but he can rush the passer a bit. Has had some off-the-field problems which need to be checked out.
  • DT Tom Barndt, UFA, Chiefs, (6-3, 300lbs, 27) – A 4-year veteran. Solid DT who can get some pressure on the passer. Consistent.
  • DT Alonzo Spellman, UFA, Cowboys (6-5, 292lbs, 28) – A 7-year veteran. A bit of a wack job who the Bears released after some disturbing off-the-field behavior. Played very well for the Cowboys last year and if he truly has his life in order, he is worthy of interest. Can be disruptive. Can rush the passer.
  • DT Chuck Osborne, RFA, Raiders (6-2, 290lbs, 26) – A 3-year veteran. Restricted, he would cost a 7th rounder (unless Oakland tenders him at a 1st round level). An important reserve for the Raiders. Goes all out on every play. Suffered a serious knee injury two years ago, but seems to have rebounded from it.

Wide Receivers: One of the priorities the Giants have mentioned is upgrading team speed. The Giants might look at some speedsters available in free agency.

  • WR Curtis Conway, UFA, Bears (6-0, 194lbs, 28) – A 7-year veteran. Has been limited the past two years with injuries. Has flashed great ability as a deep threat.
  • WR Qadry Ismail, UFA, Ravens (6-0, 190lbs, 29) – A 7-year veteran. Qadry has very good speed and can get deep. Runs well after the catch and he can return kicks. Hands are only so-so.
  • WR Joe Horn, UFA, Chiefs (6-0, 199, 27) – A 4-year veteran. A somewhat undisciplined receiver who has great speed. Needs to run better routes. Good special teams player.
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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