Everybody is all over Jerry Reese now for not making a big splash in free agency and not even retaining two important players form last year's offensive unit, Kevin Boss and now Steve Smith. I liked Steve Smith and we all remember the big year he had in 2009 and the huge plays he made as a rookie in the Super Bowl playoff run in 2007. In case you need reminding, he made two huge catches in the 0:47 second TD drive against the Cowboys at the end of the half in the divisional playoff round and the huge third down conversion right before Plaxico's winning TD against the Patriots. These plays were great and he is a very good player, but those plays probably elevate him in the evaluation of the fans higher than he really deserves. I am going to put another perspective on this. Players come and players go. The key for long term success is not overpaying for players and drafting well. You can't take a player from your own team that you're very fond of and retain him by overpaying for him as if he were a star. I am not going to be two-faced and pretend that I didn't want Smith back, but his departure is not a crusher and the fact that he left is not the issue I have with Reese handling of this situation. The Giants have a lot of very good players, but they don't have many great players. I believe Reese decided that he would like to keep the good players but does not want to pay them like they're great players. The one consensus superstar he has on the team is Justin Tuck. His contract is due in about two years (I think). If Reese had caved and paid Boss a big contract and/or had come up with more coin for Smith, leaving the Giants salary constrained when they have to come up with the big bucks for Tuck, it would have been much worse situation for the Giants. Furthermore, Terrel Thomas is still on his rookie contract and he is going to demand a major raise when he is up in 2 or 3 years. Like I said, players come and players go; the problem I have with Reese is not the specific departure of these two players, but rather I have two issues with how he handled this Giants off-season.
The first, obviously, is: how did Reese let the Giants get into salary cap hell this year? The main moves the Giants made were salary cap related to get under the cap. Giants cut Seubert, O'Hara, Andrews, Bernard and let Bulluck go also. They restructured Jacobs contract and did some tweaking of Corey Webster's contract as well. He should have managed the cap better to avoid this. (But of course, people would have been howling about how he let this player go and that player go, so I guess he can't win.) The Eagles strategy is not to retain their players unless they're indispensable. That's why they were $30M under the cap and went on a shopping spree this off-season. Giants should work to get in the same position.
The second issue I have with Reese is the way he managed the contract negotiation with these players. He made them an offer and let them sit with it. He didn't give a time limit. He didn't say - this offer is good for 48 hours. He let the players hold their offer and shop it around until some other team came up with just enough extra money or sweetened guaranteed money to beat the Giants offer. That's bad negotiating. I don't know if you remember how Accorsi handled the Plaxico negotiation, but let me refresh your memory. Plaxico was a FA and the Giants were the first team he visited. He met the coach, Giants trainers, was taken out to dinner and at the end of the weekend of FA-wooing, the Giants made him an offer. Since it was his first FA visit, Plaxico declined the offer, indicating that he wanted to visit some other teams before he decided. Accorsi bluntly said, if you leave NJ without signing the contract, the offer is off the table, Plax and his agent didn't believe the Giants so he left town. Accorsi, very publicly went to the press and said that the Giants offer was rescinded, but Plax and the agent didn't mind. When Burress went on his FA tour and did not get any other offers, he fired his agent, signed Rosenhaus as the new agent and came back to the Giants, somewhat chaste and humbled, and negotiated a new contract.
Accorsi specifically said that he did not want Burress to use the Giants offer as leverage to go shopping and extract a better offer from other teams. Similarly, he did not want Plaxico to come back to the Giants with an offer from another team in hand and use it as leverage to extract more money from the Giants. This is where Reese went wrong. He made offers to Boss and Smith, let them sit with it and even said - the ball is in their court. Well, they killed the clock, held onto the offers for a few weeks until another offer came along that was better. All it takes is one of the other 31 teams to think that the player is worth a higher investment, or in case of Philadelphia, is insurance against Maclin injury being more serious. Parenthetically, I also think Reid wanted to hurt the Giants as much as he wanted to help the Eagles, both physically as well as with team morale, but that's besides the point. Reese misplayed the negotiation by leaving it up to the players and giving them lots of runway. If he had made the offer to Boss/Smith and said that it's good for 48 hours, he might have gotten a different result.