There have been some very interesting developments in the off-season NFL FA market this week. Arizona Cardinals confirmed that they will not put the franchise tag on MLB Karlos Dansby. Carolina Panthers announced that they will not put the franchise tag on Julius Peppers. In perhaps the two most interesting moves this week, the San Diego Chargers cut Ladanian Tomlinson and the Philadelphia Eagles cut Brian Westbrook. These last two moves are no doubt an indicator of the importance placed on speed and play making ability at every position on offense including RB. More than that, it is indicative of the declining skills of these two once-dynamic players due to age and injury. I think it also may show that the Giants are slightly out-of-step at the RB position and need to upgrade the position to make sure that they have fast play makers at the position. I would almost never draft a RB in the first round and I think that is true now more than ever. You can pick up these speed type players in later rounds, but they are definitely needed. Jacobs is a nice player to have on the team and it may be good to get him 40-50% of the carries, but you need a breakaway and pass catching threat at RB. Bradshaw has shown flashes but was hurt in both the 2008 and 2009 season after his sparkling rookie-year showing in the playoffs. I am not sure he is the answer at the position. I think the Cowboys have the best model at RB, with a bruiser in Marion Barber, a burner in Felix Jones and a good all purpose RB in Choice. Comparing the two backfields, Jacobs is bigger than Barber, but not quite as elusive, explosive or as good a pass catcher. Bradshaw is not as big a threat as Jones, not as fast or dangerous.
If the labor contract is not renegotiated before March 5th and 2010 is in fact an uncapped year, as it certainly appears that it will be, there will be many fewer free agents than in a normal year. While no salary cap seems like it would be a boon to the players, there are several other rules that restrict players movements. Specifically, players that would be unrestricted FA's after their 4th year will instead be restricted. Only players with 6 years tenure in the league become FAs and this affects approximately 200 players around the league who will not become unrestricted FA's becasue of this change. With so many potential FAs off the market, there are very few attractive FAs, Peppers and Dansby among them. This also happens to be two positions that the Giants could use. I think Dansby is a very good player, but his performance slipped a little bit last year. Giants need speed at that LB position and once a player loses some speed, he doesn't get it back. An intriguing possibility for the Giants would be to sign Peppers and to trade Ueminyora for a LB or S. I am sorry - I know this sounds like one of the callers on sports talk radio proposing some ridiculous trade and it is extremely unlikely that this will happen, IMHO. This scenario is remote for several important reasons: Peppers would cost a lot of money; he has the reputation of being a little bit of a head case who takes some plays off and only really gears things up on passing downs where he can make ESPN highlights with a sack; Ueminyora still has time on his contract at a very reasonable $3M or so per year; it is not a good idea to trade a star player after an off-year when his value is diminished; Giants just don't like to throw money around at overpriced FAs.
While the Giants do not like to sign the big ticket FAs, the labor situation and inability to make other more moderate FA signings might encourage them to change their approach this year. Players are more likely to be traded this year because of the stale FA market and teams may feel that trading is the only way to retool the roster. However - the biggest reason that the Giants are unlikely to sign Peppers or Dansby is that by all accounts this is one of the best drafts in recent memory. Apparently there is a lot of talent at the top end of the draft and worthy first round talent all the way through. What makes this draft particularly interesting and beneficial to the Giants is that much of the talent is in the DL and OL, with some strong players at LB as well. The Giants like to build a team through the draft and will probably decide to accumulate players that way in order to upgrade the team. Aside from DT N Suh from Nebraska, the consensus best player in the draft, there are several other studs at DT and DE. Making the draft even deeper is that fact that a rookie salary cap is almost certain to be part of the next labor agreement, encouraging 3rd year college players with a year of eligibility left to come into this year's draft, before the rookie salary cap is imposed.
If anything, with the draft so deep, perhaps the Giants will trade a player or two for additional draft picks. This is not the year to trade in order to move up in the draft, because there is so much depth and talent available all the way through.