8 Free Agency and Draft Targets the New York Giants Must Chase in 2013
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After the New York Giants’ 52-point spectacle against the Saints on Sunday, the team looks prepared to finish the season on a strong note. If New York’s Week 14 explosiveness spills over into the final three games of the regular season, the Giants will find themselves in the postseason for the sixth time under head coach Tom Coughlin’s guidance.
The Giants will surely aim to extend that winning tradition into the 2013 season. But in order to do so, they will need to locate, assess and acquire free agents, while continuing to draft talent accurately and efficiently.
For those of you who have read my 2013 Free Agent Shopping List and Seven-Round Draft Projection articles, this will be a bit of a review. In this slideshow, I will be tying together players from both articles and will provide an expansive view of the personnel changes that could be on the way in New York.
FA: TE Brandon Meyers
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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 has yet to catch a pass since returning from a torn ACL, and Adrien Robinson has not dressed for a single game this 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 70 catches for 728 yards and four touchdowns.
Myers is a talented, low-profile tight end who the Giants should happily scoop up if the Raiders fail to retain him.
DRAFT: DE Ezekiel Ansah
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The Giants have not spent an early-round draft pick on a pass rusher since they took Jason Pierre-Paul 15th overall in the 2010 draft. Knowing the way general manager Jerry Reese likes to operate, the Giants are long overdue for one.
Brigham Young defensive end/linebacker Ezekiel Ansah fits the New York mold for game-changing pass-rushers. He is a massive prospect (6'6", 270 lbs.) with tremendous raw power and athleticism. According to NFLDraftScout.com, Ansah’s average 40-yard dash time is 4.74 seconds.
Ansah has only come on as of late for the Cougars. He recorded just 10 tackles in his sophomore and junior seasons combined, but the Ghana native blew up during his senior campaign. In his final season at BYU, Ansah recorded 57 tackles (30 solo, 13 for a loss), 4.5 sacks, six QB hurries and eight passes defended.
FA: OT Sebastian Vollmer
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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 a first team 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. 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.
DRAFT: DT Sylvester Williams
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Two drafts ago, the Giants riskily selected defensive tackle Marvin Austin out of North Carolina in the second round. In his two seasons as an NFL pro, Austin has yet to make an impact, which may cause Reese to double-dip into the Tar Heels' talent pool at defensive tackle.
North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams would be a good fit along the Giants’ defensive front. His size (6'3", 305 lbs.) and positive work ethic could prove to be beneficial for New York’s defense, which has been called out for playing “soft” in the past.
Williams’ 42 tackles (21 solo) and six sacks this past season will make him an enticing prospect in the 2013 draft. So in order for the Giants to have a chance at selecting him, some other teams will have to pass on the defensive tackle that had, at one time, called it quits.
If Williams falls to the Giants, do they take another second-round shot on a defensive tackle out of UNC?
FA: DL Israel Idonije
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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.
Even Canty’s return could not rectify multiple “soft” performances against the run, and New York is finding out the hard way that it could use 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 against re-signing 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.
DRAFT: CB Carrington Byndom
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Along with defensive linemen, Reese also places high value in the cornerback position. That’s why I predict the Giants will select one relatively early in the 2013 NFL draft.
New York just selected cornerback Jayron Hosley with its third-round pick in 2012 and Prince Amukamara with its first-round pick in 2011, but the defensive backfield seems to be perennially stricken with injuries. Selecting a corner early in 2013 would not be unheard of.
Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom should be on the Giants' radar. Byndom is a lean corner (6-0, 180 lbs.), which may limit his physicality at the NFL level. But his height, speed and fluidity will help him stick with even the most talented wide receivers.
Byndom recorded 46 tackles (35 solo), three interceptions and a sack in 2012.
FA: CB Mike Jenkins
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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 still developing the ability to nullify the opposition’s top wide receiver.
Adding a talented player like Dallas CB Mike Jenkins would seriously bolster New York’s defensive backfield. Jenkins is a former first-round selection (2008 NFL Draft, 25th overall), and he has a Pro Bowl season under his belt (2009).
Since the signing of Brandon Carr in free agency and the selection of Morris Claiborne in the draft this past offseason, Jenkins has been forced to relinquish his starting role with the Cowboys. He certainly wants to continue 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 consider following in Bennett's footsteps and join a Super Bowl-caliber squad once his time with “America’s Team” is up.
DRAFT: OG Gabe Ikard
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Many New Yorkers would love to see their hometown squad finally reel in a stud offensive lineman. The Giants, however, have only spent one early-round pick on an O-lineman during Reese’s tenure as GM: tackle Will Beatty in 2009 (second round).
Not much will change in 2013, as the Giants will surely wait until the mid to late rounds before they start to bolster the offensive front. If the team waits until the fourth round to select a lineman, one player the scouts should have an eye on is guard Gabe Ikard from Oklahoma.
Ikard is much smaller (6'3", 288 lbs.) than the Giants’ current starting guards—Kevin Boothe (6'5", 320 lbs.) and Chris Snee (6'3", 305 lbs.)—but the Sooner has blocked well in 2012.
Ikard can also step in at center in a pinch, making him all the more attractive to a coaching staff that champions versatility.
The Final Product
The list I have compiled contains three offensive players and five defensive players. This is somewhat reflective of the team’s needs, as New York’s offense currently ranks ninth in the league (372.9 yards/game), and its defense ranks 25th (376.2 yards/game).
Of the offensive players mentioned in the article, only Vollmer would have an immediate impact. He is talented enough to come in and start on day one, while Myers would have to oust Bennett for targets at tight end. As a rookie, Ikard would not see much action, but with proper development he could eventually become a mainstay along the offensive front.
Defensively, Mike Jenkins and Carrington Byndom would be put to work right away. Jenkins’ experience would allow him to assume one of the Giants’ top cornerback positions and Byndom would be worked in as a reserve, as New York has no trouble finding playing time for almost all its corners.
Idonije, Ansah and Williams would really bulk up the Giants’ defensive front, but it would be tough for any of them to land a starting role. Idonije would be useful in multiple defensive sets due to his versatility, but Ansah and Williams would likely need a year of development before they become big-time playmakers.