NFL Free Agency 2012: 10 Free Agents That Could Best Fit the New York Giants

Doug RushSenior Analyst IMarch 11, 2012

NFL Free Agency 2012: 10 Free Agents That Could Best Fit the New York Giants

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    The free-agency period for the NFL begins on Tuesday.

    The one name that has dominated the headlines for free agency has been Eli Manning's brother, Peyton Manning, who was released from the Indianapolis Colts last week.

    While the Giants are in no way interested in the elder Manning, they have needs of their own for the 2012 season.

    It's usually difficult to make a needs list for the team coming off a Super Bowl victory, but make no mistake, the Giants have a few holes they need to fill this off-season.

    Here's a list of 10 free agents that could fit the needs for the current champions.

Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts

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    The Giants have a need at tight end due to both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tearing their ACL's in the Super Bowl.

    This past week, the Indianapolis Colts purged a big part of their roster, and one of the cuts was long-time tight end Dallas Clark.

    In one of my latest stories, I said how Clark would be a good fit for the Giants and would be comfortable in their offensive system.

    I think Clark has two potential options.

    One is going wherever Peyton Manning goes.

    The other is playing for Eli Manning and the Giants.

Joel Dreessen, TE, Houston Texans

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    If Dallas Clark does in fact follow Peyton Manning, the Giants need a backup option for the tight end position.

    One potential option could be Texans tight end Joel Dreessen, who had a solid season with Houston last season.

    Dreessen caught 28 balls for 356 yards and six touchdowns, and could gain some serious interest on the market.

    Dreessen isn't the name that sticks out the most among star free agents, but he could fit well into the Giants' system.

Steve Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Giants are likely to lose Mario Manningham on Tuesday when he hits the free-agent market.

    One of the more talked about names for the Giants has been Steve Smith.

    Smith, a former Giant, had a disappointing season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Though he scored an important touchdown in Week 11 against his old team, he was barely used in the Eagles offense throughout the season.

    However, he was always one of Eli Manning's most reliable targets during his time in New York.

    This past week I advocated for the Giants to bring Smith back because it makes sense.

    Putting Smith with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz would still give Manning a lot great options downfield in 2012.

Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets

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    One of the more controversial names that has popped up for the Giants in free agency.

    Last week, former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress said that he was open to a reunion with his former team.

    In my story last week, I broke down the pros and cons of whether it would be a smart move for the Giants to consider bringing back Burress.

    Last season with the Jets, he was productive as a red-zone target, but he didn't look like the No. 1 receiver he once was.

    There was some talk about Burress going to the Eagles for 2012, which could still be a possibility.

    In the NFL, you can never say never. If the Giants need a tall red-zone target who would likely come very cheap, Burress could be a potential target to bring in for Eli Manning and the Giants offense in 2012.

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders

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    Last week, the Giants released long-time running back Brandon Jacobs, a move that many expected to happen before free agency.

    The Giants have Ahmad Bradshaw locked up, but they will need to look for a running back to pair with Bradshaw.

    A potential option is former Raiders running back Michael Bush, who had a solid 2011 season rushing for 977 yards and seven touchdowns. He also added 418 yards and touchdown through the air.

    Jacobs was never a solid option receiving out of the backfield, and as he got older, he declined as a power-back.

    The 28-year-old Bush can be a productive as both a runner and a receiver, and the Giants could be calling for him.

Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego Chargers

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    The Giants could use another bruiser to complement Ahmad Bradshaw.

    Mike Tolbert's name immediately pops to mind.

    He's only 26 years old, runs north to south, plows through defenders and scores touchdowns.

    In 2011, Tolbert ran for 490 yards and eight touchdowns, all while splitting carries with Ryan Mathews, the Chargers' premier back.

    In 2010, while Mathews was injured as a rookie, Tolbert had 735 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

    He can also be a productive receiver out of the backfield, totaling 433 yards and two touchdowns for San Diego in 2011.

    Tolbert could be what Jacobs once was, without the bad attitude.

Max Starks, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Giants need to retool their offensive line and get younger.

    At times, their line struggled tremendously, dealing with injuries and age.

    Will Beatty struggled throughout the 10 games he played and missed the latter half of the season with a detached retina.

    David Diehl is getting up in age, and Kareem McKenzie was told by the Giants to find a new home for 2012.

    A name that could interest them is former Steelers tackle Max Starks.

    He just turned 30, and is recovering from ACL surgery, an injury he suffered during the Steelers AFC Wild Card Round game against the Denver Broncos.

    Doctors said Starks could need six to nine months of recovery time, so signing him would definitely be a risk.

    But when healthy, he's a solid tackle with great size at 6'8" and 340 pounds, and could help protect Eli Manning like he has Ben Roethlisberger over the last couple of seasons.

Anthony Collins, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

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    One of the lesser-known names on the free-agent market for offensive lineman is Anthony Collins of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Collins has served as both a starter and backup on the Bengals, starting in just 16 of the 35 total games he has played in.

    Now a free agent, he could be signed to take over as a full-time starter for another team.

    The Giants need to get younger on the offensive line and could use his size and youth.

    At 26 years old, the 6'5", 315-pound Collins is a good fit for the G-Men, especially with Kareem McKenzie's exit and the possible departure of David Diehl.

David Hawthorne, LB, Seattle Seahawks

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    Linebacker was a problem for the Giants in 2011.

    Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim were both out for the season.

    They started Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Greg Jones during the year, all of whom were rookies.

    Mathias Kiwanuka is a more natural defensive end, but had to play linebacker again.

    It got so bad for the Giants that they had to summon back Chase Blackburn, who was looking to be a substitute teacher, a move that turned out to be a great one for the Giants in the end, especially during the Super Bowl.

    But the Giants definitely need help and some stability at linebacker.

    One name that stands out is Seahawks inside linebacker David Hawthorne, who has played well over the last few seasons.

    In 2011, Hawthorne had 115 total tackles (73 of which were solo), two sacks and three interceptions.

    Since 2009, Hawthorne has averaged over 100 tackles a season as a starting linebacker for Seattle, and now as a free agent, he could be a great pickup for the Giants.

    Hawthorne dealt with a nagging knee injury in 2011, but it didn't stop him from playing at a high level.

Gary Brackett, LB, Indianapolis Colts

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    The final name on the list is another Colt who was released this past week, Gary Brackett.

    Brackett is an interesting name for a couple of reasons.

    He grew up in Glassboro, New Jersey and played at Rutgers University.

    He's a little older at age 31 (going on 32 by the time the 2012 season starts), and he missed most of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.

    Brackett played in just one game during 2011, and was one of the casualties in the Colts' roster purge.

    Fellow Bleacher Report writer Dave Giancola wrote a story last week stating how Brackett would be a perfect fit for the Giants.

    Brackett was always a solid linebacker for Indianapolis and could be a solid veteran presence for the Giants.

    Plus, it would sort of be a homecoming for Brackett, playing in the state where he grew up and played college football.