General Manager Jerry Reese says there are always good players available in free agency. “There are always good players,” said Reese at the NFL Combine on February 21. “You just have to look deep into what you need and what’s available. There are always people in free agency who can help you fill some holes in your roster. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper. It would be nice to get all the top guys, but that’s (not) really reality, so you have to look at the mid levels. And you even have to bottom-feed sometimes in free agency.”
To me, it seems that each year there are fewer interesting players available. Part of this is due to the fact that teams are doing a better job of retaining their own good players. On top of that, the Franchise tag has been used more this year than ever before. But also, the Giants’ talent level on their roster right now is very good. If the Giants bottom feed, there is no guarantee that these players will even make the team or be significant contributors. For example, last year the Giants signed players such as Danny Clark, Sammy Knight, Renaldo Wynn, Shane Olivea, David Carr, and Jonathan Palmer. The one starter out of that group – Clark – was just OK. Wynn was an unexciting reserve who may not be re-signed. Knight rarely played and was just cut. Olivea and Palmer did not make the team. Carr has been re-signed as Eli’s primary back-up. My point? Don’t get your hopes up!
Quarterback: With David Carr re-signed, the Giants already have an experienced veteran behind Manning. The Giants will not likely add another veteran here though they could re-sign Anthony Wright to compete for the #3 job with Andre Woodson and possibly another draft pick.
Wide Receivers: With Plaxico Burress’ future with the team very much in doubt and Amani Toomer’s days in New York most likely over, this obviously is one of the chief areas of concern for the Giants. I think the Giants hold Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith in high regard and both are still just scratching the surface of their potential. It remains to be seen if Mario Manningham can mentally adjust to the pro game. Sinorice Moss was rumored to be on the trading block last year. David Tyree is a 4th/5th-type of receiver. The Giants will undoubtedly draft a wide receiver or two. But rookie wideouts don’t usually make a big impact. So the Giants probably will look at free agents and possibly a trade. The problem is there is not much out there in free agency. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Bengals) will be 32 years old in September, is not really a vertical threat, and will likely be in high demand. The Giants may be better off looking at a guy like Nate Washington (Steelers). He’s inconsistent, but he is fast. He’s also young (turns 26 in August) and improving. Devery Henderson (Saints) is inconsistent, but he can also get down the field. The Giants could also take a chance on someone like Miles Austin (Cowboys) or Hank Baskett (Eagles). Both have size, speed, and special teams return ability. (Late Update: The Jets also released Laveranues Coles. Although he is past 30 and not the vertical threat the Giants need, he may be someone the Giants consider if they want a veteran presence).
Running Backs: No quality fullback will want to sign with the Giants with Madison Hedgecock firmly entrenched as the starter. Brandon Jacobs was franchised and will be back (Late Update: Jacobs was re-signed to a 4-year, $25 million deal). Derrick Ward will hit the open market and is not likely to return. That said, the Giants are in good shape with Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware. It is possible that the Giants could sign a second-tier veteran to compete with Bradshaw and Ware.
Tight Ends: The Giants have a decent group of tight ends in Kevin Boss, Darcy Johnson, and Michael Matthews. But if Boss were to go down, the Giants might be in trouble. Adding another tight end in free agency or the draft is certainly a possibility. However, there are not many interesting guys available in free agency at tight end. If the Giants want to consider an older veteran, they may look at someone like the versatile Jim Kleinsasser (Vikings).
Offensive Line: The starting five is one of the best offensive lines in football and all are signed through at least 2011. The question is one of depth. What do the Giants truly think about Guy Whimper, Adam Koets, and Kevin Boothe? Will an attempt be made to re-sign Grey Ruegamer or will the Giants look to add a younger veteran? Obviously a top-tier player will not likely be the focus here.
Defensive Ends: The Giants are in great shape with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka. Adding a fourth defensive end to compete with Dave Tollefson and Robert Henderson would be ideal, but that person will likely come in the draft.
Defensive Tackle: The Giants are in good shape here as long as Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins recover well from offseason knee scopes. Jay Alford is a quality reserve. What would make the Giants’ defensive line truly outstanding would be adding a player like Albert Haynesworth (Titans). But he is likely far out of the Giants’ price range. Shaun Cody (Lions) has been a disappointment in Detroit, but he could do better with a change of scenery. The Giants could also look at some 3-4 ends who could play in the 4-3 at tackle such as Chris Canty (Cowboys), Igor Olshanksy (Chargers), and Stephen Bowen (Cowboys).
Linebackers: The Giants need more speed and athleticism here. Bryan Kehl probably has a future at the weakside spot. Antonio Pierce will likely remain the starter for at least one more year inside, but the Giants do like Jonathan Goff behind him. Still, more bodies are needed. Look for the Giants to draft at least one linebacker, possibly two. As for free agents, the team could look at Jonathan Vilma (Saints), Channing Crowder (Dolphins), Napoleon Harris (Vikings), Kevin Burnett (Cowboys), or Marcus Washington (recently cut by Redskins). (Late Update: Crowder was re-signed by the Dolphins).
Cornerbacks: The Giants are in very good shape at cornerback with Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Kevin Dockery (protected with 2nd round tender), and Terrell Thomas. Look for the Giants to draft a corner to replace Dockery in 2010.
Safeties: The Giants have solid starters in Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson, but no depth if James Butler departs as is quite possible. Additional bodies will have to be acquired either through the draft or free agency. The Giants could look at back-up type who is also a special teams stud like Sean Considine (Eagles).
Kickers: Jeff Feagles and Lawrence Tynes are likely to be the kickers in 2009.