Thursday, March 22, 2012

As the off season continues and the first wave of free agents have landed, we can start anticipating some of the more subtle moves that might be made leading up to the draft. Aaron Ross signed with the Jaguars and Mario Manningham signed with the 49ers. Mario's deal was for two years and terms were not announced, which surely means that it was not a block buster. Giants may have Mario's replacement already on the roster, in Jernigan, Barden or Hixon, but I would expect the Giants to draft a WR this year, though likely not in the first round. Brandon Jacobs has not found a team and I have not heard of any teams contacting him to set up a visit, which probably means that the Giants judged his value accurately by releasing him. If they haven't found an able back up and really want him later in the off season, my guess is he would be available after the draft for a much lower price than what he was negotiating earlier. Jacobs claimed that the Giants and him were only 500K apart in their negotiations. If that's true, Jacobs should have swallowed his pride and taken the offer, because it's probably the best offer he will get.

Simmering on the back burner and not getting much attention is an issue that was very hot and potentially disruptive last off season - the Osi Umenyiora contract situation. Osi claimed he was promised a new contract that would pay him like the best DEs in the league, held out for a day, then conducted his own personal work slowdown by not practicing, then opting for surgery. In the end he buried his anger and though he missed about half the season due to various injuries and recovery from the surgery, played very well down the stretch and in the playoffs, showing that he still has the ability to affect the game. We are one year further down the road and the question remains about what to do with Osi. There is now only one year remaining on Osi's contract and he does not have a lot of leverage. Furthermore, with only one year left there is a little less flexibility about how to extend or rework the contract. Giants have a few alternatives: they can let him play under terms of his current deal and release him at the end of his contract, allowing him to seek his own FA deal. Pass rushing DEs are always a hot commodity, but it's hard to tell how much interest he will draw as  31 years old speed guy with several knee surgeries on his medical history. Giants could renegotiate a deal with him now, or could do so instead after his contract is up this year, waiting to see how a player of his age holds up. Finally, they could trade Osi now and get a draft choice for him rather than risk losing for nothing in return.

Osi is a very talented player, though not as complete and versatile as you might like and as he himslef might think. He did have a good year but is mostly a one dimensional player, speed pass rusher, and does not play the run particularly well. It just so happens that on the Giants, with Tuck and JPP as starters at DE, both with excellent run stopping (and pass rushing) skills, keeping Osi as a 3rd down pass rush specialist, as well as in the DE rotation might be a perfect fir for his skills. We saw how he performed this year with JPP doing most of the heavy lifting against the running game and Osi saving most of his energy for the the thing he does best. In a perfect world, with no salary cap, Giants would keep Osi and use him in this role. However, in this salary cap governed NFL, what do you do with Osi at the end of 2012? Giants have JPP under contract for another 3 years, but Tuck is coming up in 2 and - here's the real stumbling block - Kiwanuka is in his contract year in 2012 also. If Osi showed his talents this year, Kiwanuka showed off his own even more. He developed himself into an above average LB, even on passing downs. He got enough snaps at DL to show he is a very effective run stopper and pass rusher from both the DL and LB positions. Kiwanuka is younger than Osi, and while Osi may be a better pure speed pass rusher, Kiwanuka is an excellent pass rusher also and is a far more complete player than Osi.

Add on top of that the roster and position maneuvering - Giants are very high on their young LBs - Greg Jones, Herzlich and Jacquain Williams. They like Paysinger also and they still have Boley under contract. They are so enamored with the future of these players that they did not sign Blackburn or Goff, one of whom would surely be the presumptive starters at MLB. Given those fact, there will be fewer snaps fro Kiwanuka at LB and since it makes a great deal of sense to get your best athletes on the field, the logical move is to slide Kiwanuka back to DE, redo his deal and trade Osi.

Further arguing for the trade of Osi is his expected salary demands. If hwe wants to be paid like the top DEs in football, he will surely use Mario Williams contract as a measuring stick. If Giants contend that Williams is a LB and not DE, then Osi will use the Trent Cole extension as a baseline and Giants will walk away with nothing. 

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