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2008 Free Agency and the Giants
Posted By Eric From BBI On February 27, 2008 @ 11:22 am In | Comments Disabled
by Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)?
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.
Kickers: With Jeff Feagles and Lawrence Tynes returning, there is no need here.
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