The party is over for the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants and now it's time to get back to business.
After already losing two key components of their offense this offseason to free agency (Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs both signed with the San Francisco 49ers), the Giants will have to look to the free-agent market to fill some holes.
While Manningham was a valuable and solid WR, the Giants have enough talent to take his place fairly seamlessly with the emergence of Victor Cruz.
Jacobs will be sorely missed, however, due to the fact that the Giants already had a poor run game last season and now have to replace their resident power back.
In the past few years, the Giants had established themselves as a multi-back, ground-and-pound type of team using combinations of speed and power to overwhelm defenses. This past year, however, Ahmad Bradshaw was struck with injury and Jacobs had to carry the load.
Jacobs was previously the starter, but he has aged rapidly due to his headstrong and aggressive running style. This meant he was not as effective as he used to be and this also forced QB Eli Manning to have to throw more to keep the offense afloat.
With Jacobs gone, however, the Giants could look to the draft for a young replacement for him. However, I believe they would be better off finding an experienced player in free agency who is looking for a shot.
A certain player fits this mold and he may be the answer to revitalizing the Giants' recent running struggles.
Cedric Benson, former Bengals RB, was a standout back from the University of Texas and was selected fourth overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2005 NFL draft. However, problems off the field and several arrests have overshadowed his talent and caused teams to think twice before signing him.
These problems aside, Benson has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons with the Bengals. His recent success has given people a glimpse into his true talent as a player in the league and what he can do given an opportunity.
At this stage of free agency, most of the big signings have been finalized and now just a few lower-tier players remain. Benson has no home after being released by the Bengals and hasn't received much interest from other teams.
However, this may be the perfect chance for the Giants to take in Benson and see what he can still do. New York only has about $2.5 million in cap room, but they could offer Benson a smaller salary contract that they load up with incentives.
A one-year deal with Benson could be beneficial to both parties. It's a minimal risk for the Giants, who could look to see how well Benson fits into their multi-back offense, and it gives Benson a job for next year with some time to prepare and get acquainted with his new team.
The Bengals, for example, gave Benson a similar deal when he was released by the Bears. Cincinnati gave him a one-year contract worth just over $500,000. Benson earned his place as a starter later that season and was rewarded with a new two-year contract worth $7 million.
Another appealing aspect of Benson is his general healthiness despite being regarded as a power back. He has only missed one game in the past two years and this game he missed last season was due to a suspension. The Giants have had several injuries with Bradshaw and Jacobs over the years, so having a reliable back in Benson would help head coach Tom Coughlin sleep at night.
One thing Benson may need to work on, however, is taking care of the football. He was tied for first in the league last year with five and was second in 2010 with seven. Jacobs was a back who used to have fumbling problems, but learned during his tenure with the Giants, so I imagine Benson would experience something similar should the Giants sign him.
The other backs in the Giants depth charts (D.J. Ware and Da'Rel Scott) have shown some signs of value, but both are faster backs who wouldn't complement the speedy Bradshaw as well as Benson would.
With the last pick in the first round, the draft may not be a great resource for finding new talent either. Instead, the Giants should focus the draft on building up an aging offensive line to also help bolster their run game.
The remaining free-agent class for offensive lineman is also very unimpressive and makes a better case for the Giants to use their remaining cap room in other areas on offense.
Overall, the Giants offense would benefit greatly from the addition of Benson and could increase their chances of defending their championship and repeating as Super Bowl champions.