Tom Coughlin will want to put together another successful team in 2013.
The New York Giants do not usually like to make a big splash in free agency. General manager Jerry Reese builds his team around solid draft classes, preferring to develop homegrown talent rather than get into bidding wars for other teams’ superstars.
However, Reese and the Giants do find reasonably priced veterans through free agency. These veterans are often players who need little development, which allows head coach Tom Coughlin and his staff to trust them to fill vital roles almost immediately.
While New York certainly tends to focus on the draft, there are a few standout Giants who were acquired through free agency. For example, Michael Boley was brought in from the Atlanta Falcons in 2009, safety Antrel Rolle came over from the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, and Martellus Bennett left the Dallas Cowboys to join the Giants this past summer.
New York is also not a team that carries a ton of extra cash in its pocket. The Giants usually hover right around the salary cap. Just before this season, they were actually $700,000 over the cap (h/t ESPN.com). This explains the team’s frugal behavior in free agency.
Here's a four-player shopping list for the Giants to mull over during the 2013 free-agency period.
Brandon Myers is enjoying a breakout season in 2012.
Martellus Bennett may develop into a reliable long-term option at tight end, but he has not been faced with much competition for the starting job. His athleticism supersedes Bear Pascoe’s. Travis Beckum is just getting back into the mix after suffering a torn ACL in Super Bowl XLVI, and Adrien Robinson has not dressed for a single game year due to his lack of experience.
If the Giants part ways with one or two of Bennett’s backups in 2013, the 6’7” tight end could grow complacent with his role, as Bennett’s work ethic was often in question during his tenure in Dallas. A tight end like Oakland’s Brandon Myers would push Bennett for the starting job.
Myers has been in the league since 2009, when the Raiders drafted him in the sixth round (202 overall). Over his first three NFL seasons, Myers only recorded 32 catches for 250 yards and no touchdowns. Myers has come along as of late, though. So far in 2012, he has 50 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns.
Myers is a talented, low profile tight end who the Giants should happily scoop up if the Raiders fail to retain him.
Sebastian Vollmer is a dominant right tackle.
Considering David Diehl’s age and performance over the past couple seasons, it’s time to inject some youth into the offensive line, specifically right tackle. The Giants may choose to scoop up a stud tackle in the draft, but the talent is definitely there if they decide to hunt for one in free agency.
One player the Giants should check out is New England’s Sebastian Vollmer. The fourth-year tackle has never made a Pro Bowl or been an All-Pro selection, but that does not mean he will come cheap. Vollmer’s extraordinary ability is well-documented, and his value to the Patriots' offense is tangible.
Jeff Howe of New England Sports Network believes Vollmer deserves a contract extension with the Patriots, but he also thinks there are some obstacles that could prevent the deal from getting done before Vollmer hits free agency. For example, Wes Welker’s contract situation still looms over New England. Will the Patriots be focused on locking him up?
Bear in mind the monster contracts that tight ends Aaron Hernandez (seven years/$40 million) and Rob Gronkowski (eight years/$55 million) signed over the summer, and suddenly, the Patriots are a lot less fiscally flexible. If Bill Belichick’s squad can’t hold on to Vollmer, the Giants should make a move for him. It would be money well spent.
Israel Idonije should have a couple quality seasons left in him.
Defensive tackle Chris Canty started the 2012 season on the physically unable to perform list, leaving his duties to veteran Rocky Bernard and third-year tackle Linval Joseph. When Bernard went down with a quad injury, the Giants were left with severely inexperienced tackles Markus Kuhn and Marvin Austin.
After multiple “soft” performances against the run, New York is finding out the hard way that it needs another veteran defensive tackle. At 32 years of age, Chicago’s Israel Idonije would be the perfect combination of experience and value.
The Giants should be attracted to Idonije’s versatility. During his nine seasons in the Bears’ 4-3 defense, Idonije has played both tackle and end. Standing at 6’7” and weighing 290 pounds, Idonije can play the run or rush the passer. He is only two years removed from his career-high 8.0-sack season in 2010.
The Bears could opt to not re-sign Idonije due to his age, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The Giants should choose to pursue Idonije if Chicago does not.
Mike Jenkins is an impact cornerback.
The Giants' pass defense has struggled in 2012, and that can be attributed to the team’s lack of a shutdown cornerback. Veteran Corey Webster is a shell of the athlete he once was, and second-year player Prince Amukamara is not developed enough to nullify the opposition’s top wide receiver.
Adding a talented cornerback like Dallas’ Mike Jenkins would seriously bolster New York’s defensive backfield. He is a former first-round selection (2008 NFL Draft, 25th overall), and he has a Pro Bowl season under his belt (2009).
Since signing Brandon Carr in free agency and selecting Morris Claiborne in the draft this past offseason, Jenkins has been forced to relinquish his starting role with the Cowboys. He will certainly want to be paid a starter’s salary, but in Dallas, that is not looking very likely.
New York does not have time to develop more youngsters in the secondary. The team needs impact players who can make a difference right away. Jenkins should follow in Bennett’s footsteps and consider joining a Super Bowl-caliber squad once his time with “America’s Team” is up.