Giants made two interesting contract and roster moves this off season, one that was brilliant and one that didn't work out well at all. Let's do the good news first: Osi's contract bump. This was played perfectly by Reese and the Giants front office. The background is that Osi has been an unhappy camper for a while about his salary; he felt that he has outplayed his contract and deserved a new one. He preferred an extension so he could stay with NYG and finish his career, but if not, he would pursue FA when the current contract expired at the end of 2012. Giants briefly explored trading him during training camp last year, but withdrew their pursuit when the offers coming back were not good enough. They kept Osi without renegotiating and he (mysteriously) decided on knee surgery and suffered an injury mid-season which together cost him nearly half the season.
How to handle Osi this year truly left Reese and the Giants on the horns of a Hobbesian dilemma. They didn't want to go into this year with the same contract distractions as last year. Trading him was not an attractive option: Osi has lost value on the trade market partly because of his injuries last year, partly because of his advancing age, partly because of having only one year left on his contract that an acquiring team would control in a trade and partly because while he played very well last year when he was healthy, he also reenforced the notion that he is not an all around stud DE but more of a speed pass rush specialist. Adding to the problem for the Giants, Osi is a popular player in the locker room, a natural leader among his peers. He is someone the Giants did not want to simply kick to the curb for fear of making the other players on the team feel that Giants were not the class organization they thought it was and one they want to be a part of. On the other side of this dilemma comes the thing I have been writing about for months on this blog - Giants could not afford to extend both Kiwanuka and Osi whose contracts were both up at the end of 2012. If they had to choose one, they should choose Kiwanuka who is the better all around player and a darned good pass rusher in his own right. They chose wisely by showing Kiwanuka the money and extending him several year. This made Osi really unhappy and unappreciated, but the Giants assuaged his dissatisfaction by giving him a bump in salary for 2012 without extending him. This was a win-win. Osi could lick his wounds and feel valued again by the organization. He had more money in his pocket this year and still could look forward to FA and a big contract next year. The Giants did not create salary cap probelms for themselves beyond this year, showed the locker room that they are the class organization they thought they were playing for that takes care of its players. They committed long term to the player they want ot keep in Kiwanuka and have a highly motivated player in Osi who will be playing this year for what will probably be his last big contract.
The other roster maneuvering that the Giants did was puzzling and did not work out well at all. Giants went out and signed a bunch of players at positions that, IMO are of questionable need, which left them in a bit of a roster pinch. Therefore, they released Ballard with the expectation that the rest of the league would pass on him and the Giants could reclaim him, stash him away on IR and have him ready for next year's team. The waiver claim sequence works in reverse order of last year's finish, giving priority of claim to the lowest teams first in sequence. The first 30 of the other 31 teams in the NFL passed on Ballard, but the 31st, the Patriots, claimed Ballard and he is on their team now. The motivation for Bellichick doing this is up for question - with the stable of great TEs they have up in new England, it's really questionable why they need a slow, plodding, (though certainly fairly productive one) to their mix. Nor am I going to talk about the apparent unwritten gentleman's agreement among NFL teams not to put in a claim in a situation like this and allow the transaction to go through. What I am going to talk about is - why did the Giants mismanage this situation and allow it to happen. The players that the Giants signed right before this transaction for whom they "could not" give up a roster spot were: Chase Blackburn, Rockey Bernard and Shaun Rogers. I have some question as to whether they need those DTs, because the Giants were very strong in the middle last year with Canty and Linval Joseph and they have Marvin Austin coming back to join the rotation. It is true that Austin hasn't played in 2 years and that Canty and Joseph are both coming off sugery, so I understand the need to protect the roster by building it up in that area. But neither Bernard nor Rogers were hotly pursued by any other teams, so the Giants surely could have waited to sign them before doing the maneuvering on Ballard. Not only that, but Rogers came into camp with a bad elbow injury, was overweight and did not particpate in any of the offseason practices. I doubt that teams were knocking down the doors of his agents to sign him; it surely could have waited. Bernard had a decent season last year with some good moments (sack in the playoffs), but he too was not a hotly pursued commodity. Blackburn also played well last year for the Giants after he was re-signed, but the Giants seem so stocked with LBs that I'm not sure he's going to make the team at all and I will be frankly surprised if he gets a lot of playing time at the position.
Ballard had a good year for the Giants, but he is not a great player. The loss of Ballard will not kill the Giants offense, but they did like him and had hopes of him developing into a very good all around TE. Still - the Giants were outmaneuvered by the Patriots and lost a decent player.