Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Giants: Free Agency Continues

As individual moves by the Giants are made, their broader, more strategic plans begin to unfold. In addition to cutting Jacobs and restructuring Eli Manning's contract to gain some more cap space, the Giants made a few other moves showing their hand. The first move they made was to resign Terrell Thomas to a 4 year contract. A player with a second ACL injury on the same knee (his first one happened in college at USC), especially a CB who relies so much on speed, is probably not going to be the most chased after commodity on the FA market. But since he was on IR this year and therefore still part of the team, Giants supervised or at least were aware of his recovery and could make a reasonable judgment on his ability to return. Furthermore, the injury happened in the 2011 preseason, meaning he had the maximum amount of time to rehab and recover. Giants showed their confidence in Thomas and also showed their indifference towards bringing Aaron Ross back. Thomas contract is a great one for both team and player. It has a low first year salary with only $1M guaranteed and a big roster bonus and salary upgrade in the second  with some easily reached incentives if Thomas returns to form. From Thomas' perspective, he gets to return to a team that knows him where he doesn't have to learn a new defense and the coaches understand his ability. While he did not get huge upfront money, the contract is generous if he returns to the near-pro-bowl level that he was at when he got injured. From the Giants perspective, if he returns to top form, Giants have a superior CB at slightly under market value. Conversely, if his knee does not respond, the Giants can release him after that first year and do not have the hit of carrying a damaged player at a high price.

Giants also resigned some good back up CBs: Coe, Johnson among them. It appears that they will go into the season with Webster, Thomas and Amukamara as the top 3 CBs with solid backups behind them. It is why they don't need to bring back Aaron Ross. The DB-field was an area requiring improvement and depth. Having 3 very good CBs allows Fewell to return Antrel Rolle to his natural S position. BTW - I would like to see a little more depth at S. Chad Jones may return this camp and Tyler Sash made some strides in his rookie year, but I like more speed at that position.

The other clear area of needed improvement is the OL. Eli was among the most pressured QBs in the league and the Giants running game was the worst in the NFL, pointing an incriminating finger at the OL. MacKenzie is gone and I was hopeful that the Giants would cut Diehl and go after Carl Nicks as the LG of the present and future. Nicks signed with Tampa Bay, so that plan is out the window. BTW - Nicks got a huge contract from Tampa, with 12.5M guaranteed in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The average value of the contract for the full 5 years is around $9M, which is something the Giants might have reached, but the upfront guaranteed money was in the Bucs favor and something that made him accepting their offer a no-brainer. Obviously, the Giants were not interested in going in that direction and it appears now that they are going to keep David Diehl around for a few years. Giants reworked Diehl's contract in similar manner to Eli's - they converted the salary for this year to bonus, which spreads the money out over the remaining years of the contract. This lowers his salary cap number for this year, but it also means that they will not cut him this year as his money is guaranteed. It further indicates that he will stay next year, because if they cut him then, there is still some "ghost" salary cap money on the books and no team likes to be charged for a player that isn't there. So, figure Diehl will move out to RT and Boothe/Petrus will fight it out for the starting LG position. There are some veteran OTs that were cut by their team that may be available cheap; I would not be surprised if the Giants get a veteran for one year for OL depth and talent. Of course, drafting some OL talent is also a possibility.

At TE, Giants did not swoop in and make a play for the released Kevin Boss. Instead, they are talking to Martellus Bennet, FA from the Cowboys. This is a good addition if he can be had at a reasonable price. He is athletic, can run and is a good blocker. Having a real down field threat at that position will make the Giants offense much more dynamic. Bennet's numbers were not impressive for the last several years, but he was sitting behind Witten on the depth chart. Even when he got on the field, Witten was the preferred target at TE and his talent may exceed his stats.

Chase Blackburn may be resigned by the Giants, but it is an unlikely event. He played well last year, but he is somewhat limited physically; neither the strongest nor the fastest player. He plays intelligently and with a lot of heart, so he's a good guy to have on the team, but he is not a 3-down LB, even though he did come up with two key INTs for the Giants down the stretch, one of them in the Super Bowl. Coming off his playoff performance it's probable that some team out there will see him as a starter or important substitute at MLB and offer him a big contract. If that does not happen, Giants may bring him back as a good backup and ST player. I am very high on the young LB crew - Jones, Herzlich, Paysinger and especially Jacquian Williams have enormous athletic talent. As soon as they learn the game, they will be valuable contributors. Williams will be a star.

A big question looming over the Giants is Osi's contract and future..... more about that in the next post. Check back later this week.

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