Brandon Jacobs has said that he wants to return to the Giants, and he is willing to restructure his contract—but it will not be enough. His current contract would pay him $4.9 million towards the Giants' cap next year.
If he repeated his stats from 2011 that would mean $8,581 per yard. He was quoted as saying he won't "sell his soul," but at that rate of $/yd it would be the Giants who are selling their souls.
Even the "run first" Giants have given into the NFL's new pass first system. Kevin Gilbride and Tom Coughlin know that a 50/50 run-pass split would benefit their team and they will look to do a better job of striking that balance in 2012.
The problem was not lack of effort in the '11 season, the problem was the production of their running backs and offensive line. Many times Eli Manning had to carry the team with his arm and talented core of receivers.
Jacobs averaged 3.8 yards per carry this past season. Although, Ahmad Bradshaw wasn't much better at 3.9, he is much more important to the Giants and he isn't going anywhere, despite a less than impressive season. The Giants offensive line did little to help either running back last season and it looks like the Giants will need to shake up that unit too.
Regardless of line play and any other excuses, it is still time to release Jacobs. He will turn 30 this off season, a dreaded age for running backs in the NFL, and his production has been in decline, particularly in short yardage situations.
The only outlier season in the past three years for Jacobs was 2010, when he averaged 5.0 ypc and scored nine TDs. That same year Bradshaw played in all 16 games. Jacobs had less carries than any other year in the league since Tiki Barber retired in 2008. Spelling Jacobs looked like the answer to continuing his success, however, this past season proved otherwise.
Bradshaw cannot be counted on as an every down back due to constant injuries to his feet and ankles. The No. 2 back for the Giants needs to be able to fill in as a starter. Jacobs, despite being the starter for several years, has never in his career been an every down back. He spent years splitting time with Barber, Derrick Ward and finally Bradshaw.
Without resting for big chunks of games Jacobs is not the threat at RB the Giants need. And no matter what the Giants offer him, Jacobs is a proud man and player, he will overvalue himself, eventually Coughlin and Gilbride will have to come to terms with Reese's eventual decision to release him.
The staff has already started planning for him to leave the club.
Danny Ware proved that he is a reliable and capable running back, he'll never be a starter in the NFL but he can help to spell Bradshaw. Behind—what the Giants hope will be—an improved line, it is hard to tell how high of a ceiling Ware has.
Late in the season the Giants were more likely to use Ware in pass blocking and two-minute situations than Jacobs, often times over Bradshaw as well. He will come into camp as the No. 2.
Da'rel Scott is a speedster coming out into his sophomore season with the Giants. A player they like and hope that he can step into the No. 2 slot, he will at least battle Ware for the position. Scott was drafted late last year, in the same round Reese found Bradshaw several years prior. Three running backs is plenty in the NFL, but the Giants will not go to camp with less than six, no team will.
Ware, Bradshaw and Scott will be at camp along with Andre Brown, who spent the '11 season mostly on the practice squad after losing, what is becoming an annual, race to third back between himself and Ware.
Alongside of them will be a combination of free-agent signings, draft picks, and undrafted free-agent rookies.
How the draft has been treating running backs in recent years is extremely interesting. Last year the first overall RB drafted was taken with the 28th pick. It was Mark Ingram and he was a Heisman Trophy winner. He was the only RB drafted in the first round. There were eight RBs selected in the first three rounds, as opposed to 11 WRs and 16 DBs.
The value of running backs is currently in steady decline. This year could be a full-on free fall as top RB Trent Richardson is projected to be drafted well outside of the top 10 picks and that has nothing to do with talent. It is simply a numbers game where RBs are not as valuable as pass defenders, pass rushers, pass throwers, and pass catchers.
Passing game. Passing game. Passing game.
There is a possibility that the Giants could find a top-five running back still available with their pick at the bitter end of the second round. With the strength of the DBs and pass rushers in this year's draft there is a possibility that a top-five RB may still be available at the end of the third round.
So who will still be on the board when the Giants select in the second round?
If Doug Martin is still available, there is no scenario where the Giants can afford not to draft him. His stock is rising since the combine, however, so he may be gone by the time the Giants are on the board. He is potentially the biggest steal Reese makes on draft day, who could push Bradshaw as early as mid-season for the starting role.
Other possibilities include Chris Polk, David Wilson, and LaMichael James. All of whom would be nice fits for the Giants and would presumably walk into preseason as an automatic No. 2 back behind Bradshaw.
There are at least four to six other RBs in this draft class that could come to the Giants and at least compete for the No. 2 spot. Which gives Jerry Reese and company until the fourth or fifth round to pick up the potential starting RB of the future.
Although, if the Giants do not draft a RB they will still bring in several undrafted players in hopes of finding the next Victor Cruz-esque success story.
Jacobs will go to clear cap room. With Mario Manningham having one foot already out the door, and Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum's collective knee problems the Giants may use that $4.8 million to add a skilled, veteran WR or TE who can quickly learn the system while developing youth at the RB position.
Domenik Hixon has proven to be a reliable fourth WR option, when healthy, and can step into the third slot when needed, he re-signed with the Giants today. Jerrel Jernigan was drafted in the third round last year to eventually replace Manningham. Ramses Barden, who will be in his last contract year, will also compete for the third WR spot, it is a make or break season for him after failing to achieve much his first three years in the league.
What may be more helpful to Eli Manning and the Giants' passing attack though, is stability at the RB position, and Reese has proven that he puts emotions aside when cutting players. He will prove that again this off-season. Despite his years of loyal service with the boys in blue, Jacobs can help the Giants more by not being on the roster in 2012.