Feb 272008

New York Giants 2008 NFL Free Agency Preview: The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants do not have a lot of holes on the roster, but there are areas where they can help themselves.  Much depends on which of their own free agents are re-signed or not, most notably FS Gibril Wilson, LB Kawika Mitchell, HB Derrick Ward, and LB Reggie Torbor.  Whether Michael Strahan retires or not will also influence personnel decisions.

I do not expect the Giants to be overly active in free agency.  While the Giants have the cap space, the pickings – for the second year in a row – are pretty slim.  The few quality guys who will be available will be dramatically overpriced.  Supply and demand.  There isn’t much out there and a lot of teams have cap space.

The Giants are in good shape at all of their starting positions with the possible exception of safety.  Because the Giants are a young team, General Manager Jerry Reese may choose to use his available cap space this season on extending contracts of players already on the roster.

The following are my thoughts on the Giants’ offseason needs which should be addressed either by free agency or the draft.  I have identified some unrestricted free agents who have caught my eye.  This is not an exhaustive list.  Some of these guys will be off the market by the time free agency starts at midnight on February 29th.  And there will be others available as teams cut players.  So please take this preview for what it is – a snapshot of the free agent market at 11:30AM on February 27.

While it is very important not to overrate your own talent, especially when coming off of a championship season, I don’t see a lot of room on this roster for second- or third-tier-type free agents on this team.  The Giants will have seven draft picks in April (they traded away their 7th rounder but gained an additional 6th rounder).  My preference – and I think that of the Giants as well – is to fill remaining DEPTH openings with rookies (aside from back-up quarterback).  If the Giants do pursue a veteran free agent, I think they will look at quality players who are likely starters.  These type of players will be expensive – perhaps prohibitively so.  The Giants may want to remain quiet for the bulk of the free agent signing period.

Quarterbacks:  The question here is the back-up situation.  Can the Giants do better than Anthony Wright?  A year after being promoted the second-string spot, Jared Lorenzen fell to third-team in 2007.  He is a restricted free agent.  And he’s still very fat.  How important is the game to him?  A word of warning – the free agent quarterback market is pretty bad this year.

  • Todd Collins (Washington Redskins, 6-4, 225, 36):  A career back-up who started the final three games of the 2007 regular season for the Redskins and won all three games with a 106.4 quarterback rating.  Smart.  Makes good decisions and is accurate.
  • Billy Volek (San Diego Chargers, 6-2, 214, 31):  A career back-up who has started 10 games in his career.  Led the Chargers on a game-winning TD drive over the Colts in the playoffs.  Started 8 games for the Titans in 2004 and played well with an 87.1 quarterback rating.

Running Backs:  Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are obviously the top two halfbacks on the team.  If the Giants re-sign Derrick Ward, then the Giants are set at this position.  If Ward departs, then the Giants will likely add another running back in free agency or the draft (my guess would be the draft).  Reuben Droughns is still in the picture, but he is ordinary at best.  Madison Hedgecock is entrenched as the fullback.

  • Mewelde Moore (Minnesota Vikings, 5-11, 209, 25):  Productive part-time player.  Very good punt returner.  Can catch the football out of the backfield.  Physical, aggressive runner who is somewhat injury prone.  Smart.

Wide Receivers:  Plaxico Burress and Steve Smith are the only sure, long-term contributors.  Amani Toomer will likely play at least one more season with the Giants.  Sinorice Moss has been a disappointment.  David Tyree and Domenik Hixon are mainly special teams players.  What the Giants lack is a consistent, reliable deep threat to stretch the field.  Also, if Plaxico Burress is lost due to an injury, the Giants would be in trouble.  I believe this is one of the Giants’ biggest need areas.

  • Randy Moss (New England Patriots, 6-4, 210, 31):  One of the most dangerous receivers in football and a superb deep threat.  Has an excellent size/speed combination.  Accrued 1,493 yards and an NFL record 23 touchdowns in 2007.
  • Bernard Berrian (Chicago Bears, 6-1, 185lbs, 27):  Berrian is a speed receiver who would provide a good deep threat for the G-Men.  In the past two regular seasons, he’s caught 122 passes for 1,726 yards and 11 touchdowns – despite having crappy quarterbacks throwing to him.  He has really improved his route running and ball skills.  Not a physical player.
  • Jerry Porter (Oakland Raiders, 6-2, 220, 29):  Older player who can still get deep.  Not a great route runner.  Has had some attitude issues.  Averaged 16 yards per catch on 44 receptions in 2007 with bad quarterbacks.  Excellent size/speed combination with good body control and hands.
  • Bryant Johnson (Arizona Cardinals, 6-3, 213, 26):  Johnson has been stuck behind Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, but he has been productive.  Tough receiver who adjusts well to the football.  Not a blazer, but he has good speed.  In 2006, he averaged 18.5 yards per catch on 40 catches.  In 2007, that per catch average dropped to 11.5 on 46 receptions.
  • Andre Davis (Houston Texans, 6-1, 195, 28):  Davis has good size and excellent speed.  Elusive.  Good blocker.  So-so hands.  Started 8 games in 2007, catching 33 passes for 583 yards (17.6 yards per catch average) and three touchdowns.  Davis is also a dangerous kickoff returner with 3 returns for touchdowns in 2007.
  • D.J. Hackett (Seattle Seahawks, 6-2, 208, 26):  An improving player who missed 10 games in 2007 with high ankle sprains.  Has good size and can leap.  Not overly quick or fast.

Tight Ends:  If Jeremy Shockey returns near 100 percent, then the Giants are in good shape here with him and Kevin Boss.  The third tight end spot is likely up for grabs between Michael Matthews and Darcy Johnson.

Offensive Line:  David Diehl did a really nice job at left tackle in just his first season at that position.  And he will get better with more experience.  Kareem McKenzie is one of the best right tackles in football.  Guy Whimper provides solid depth and the Giants thought enough of Adam Koets to keep him around on the 53-man roster all season.  Inside, Chris Snee is one of the best guards and Rich Seubert is solid.  Shaun O’Hara is the leader of the offensive line.  Grey Ruegamer is a solid reserve but the team may look to get younger and better inside.  Kevin Boothe is intriguing as a former starter who still has an upside.  The big question here is are the Giants happy with their starting five?  I think they are.  I don’t think they want to mess with the chemistry and continuity of one of the better lines in the NFL.  My guess is they will be more apt to add additional guard/center depth in the draft rather than sign a veteran free agent.

  • OG Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-5, 307, 31):  One of the better guards in football, but he will turn 32 in December.  Tough, hardworking, and plays with an attitude.  Very good run blocker who sometimes struggles with quickness in pass protection.
  • LT Flozell Adams (Dallas Cowboys, 6-7, 340, 32):  Adams played at an exceptionally high level in 2007 after a down season in 2006.  Huge player who can muscle and maul as a run blocker.  Not pretty as a pass blocker, but he gets the job done.  His long arms and strength make it difficult for linemen to get past him once engaged.  Not a good puller.  Will he still play at a high level once he has a big contract?  Turns 33 in May.

Defensive End:  Much depends on whether Michael Strahan retires.  If he does not, the Giants are set at defensive end.  If he does retire, the Giants have a strong starting combination in Osi Umemyiora and Justin Tuck, but could use more depth (unless the team moves Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end).  Dave Tollefson is intriguing too.  Adrian Awasom has been around the team for a few years now and could be a solid reserve, but the Giants would ideally like someone more explosive.  However, I wouldn’t look for that kind of guy to come from free agency since good defensive ends are very expensive and would likely look for another team where the they are guaranteed to start.

Defensive Tackle:  The Giants have a solid, but unspectacular, starting combination in Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield.  Jay Alford looks primed to contribute more as a pass rusher.  Manny Wright has intriguing ability but comes with emotional baggage.  If the Giants could land a top-notch tackle, the entire defense would become even more deadly.  However, teams rarely let top-notch defensive tackles become available in free agency.  The two good defensive tackles – Albert Haynesworth and Corey Williams – were franchised.  The rest do not inspire.

  • Rod Coleman (Released by Atlanta Falcons, 6-2, 285, 31):  Almost signed with the Giants in 2004.  Recovering from ruptured quadriceps muscle.  Coleman is an undersized tackle who is a much better pass rusher than run defender.  Can get mauled at the point of attack, but disrupts with quickness.  Very good interior pass rusher.  He turns 32 in August.

Linebacker:  The overall concern here is that the Giants are not very fast or athletic at linebacker.  It’s difficult to see the Giants even contemplating replacing Antonio Pierce, however, because of what he brings to the defense from both a leadership and mental standpoint.  The Giants say they want to re-sign Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor.  Mitchell was a valuable addition to the defense but he lacks the speed/athleticism teams usually seek in a 4-3 weakside linebacker.  Torbor, a solid reserve who also lacks explosiveness, may look to another team for a better chance to start.  Clouding matters somewhat other players on the roster.  Gerris Wilkinson may actually be a better option at weakside linebacker than Mitchell.  Is Zak DeOssie ready to push for playing time as a linebacker?  Will (and can) the Giants keep Mathias Kiwanuka at strongside linebacker?

  • Lance Briggs (Chicago Bears, 6-1, 240, 27):  Friend and former college teammate of Antonio Pierce.  Pro Bowl weakside linebacker.  Good athlete with fine speed.  Has averaged well over 100 tackles per season in his five years in the NFL.  Can blitz, cover, and play the run.
  • Landon Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals, 6-2, 232, 26):  Weakside linebacker.  Smart, hardworking, and instinctive.  Lacks classic size, but he is an aggressive player with good speed and range.  Tackles well and can cover.  Can be mauled at times against the run.
  • Rosevelt Colvin (Released by New England Patriots, 6-3, 250, 30):  The Giants were interested in signing Colvin in 2003 before he signed with New England.  His 2003 season was cut short by a hip injury.  He also missed 10 games in 2007 with a foot injury.  Colvin is a big, strong linebacker who rushes the passer very well.  Not as good against the run as he should be.  Lacks ideal agility for pass coverage.

Cornerback:  The situation at cornerback has dramatically changed with the shocking progression of Corey Webster in the playoffs.  If the Giants believe that Webster has really turned the corner, then cornerback is not as pressing a need as it appeared it would be.  However, Sam Madison is older and the Giants would ideally like to replace R.W. McQuarters.  If the Giants like Aaron Ross and Corey Webster as starters, with Kevin Dockery as a nickel, then I don’t really see the Giants going after a high-priced veteran cornerback (but addressing the position in the draft).  However, if the Giants still are concerned about Webster, then all bets are off.  How legitimate are the rumors that the Giants are interested in possibly trading for CB DeAngelo Hall (Falcons) and CB Marcus Trufant (Seahawks)?

  • Asante Samuel (New England Patriots, 5-10, 185, 27):  Pro Bowl performer who has picked off 16 passes and has 32 pass defenses the past two seasons.  Lacks ideal size and speed.  Better in zone than man coverage.  More of a cover-2 corner who may not be well suited to the Giants’ defensive system that employs more aggressive man coverage.  Smart and instinctive.  Makes plays.  Samuel is looking for a huge payday.
  • Drayton Florence (San Diego Chargers, 6-0, 195, 27):  Lost his starting job to All-World Antonio Cromartie.  Played well as a nickel back for the Chargers.  He has intercepted a total of 10 passes the past four seasons with 36 pass defenses.  Has a good combination of size and athleticism.  Versatile – can play inside or outside.  Can play man and stick to receivers.  Not overly instinctive.  Good tackler.

Safeties:  This is the biggest need area on defense.  A huge key is whether or not the Giants can re-sign Gibril Wilson.  If they do not re-sign him, this position becomes one of concern to one of alarm.  Michael Johnson shows promise but is still learning.  James Butler has not been impressive (though he was slowed with a hamstring issue much of the season).  Andrew Shanle was on the Practice Squad.

  • Madieu Williams (Cincinnati Bengals, 6-1, 203, 26):  Williams has started 45 games in four seasons with the Bengals.  He has 9 career interceptions.  Williams is a good athlete who can play both man and zone coverage.  Has good range.  Needs to improve his tackling.  Good blitzer.  Tough and competitive.
  • Eugene Wilson (New England Patriots, 5-10, 195, 27):  Lacks ideal size, but he has experience at both safety and cornerback.  Good range.  Can play some man.  In 2003-04, Wilson had a total of 8 interceptions, but just 2 since then.  Good tackler.

Kickers:  With Jeff Feagles and Lawrence Tynes returning, there is no need here.

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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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