New York Giants: Keep, Tag or Walk on Big Blue's 2013 Free Agents
Last year around this time, the New York Giants were preparing for a home playoff game.
Fast forward almost 365 days later, the former Super Bowl champions will be watching a new champion get crowned and have a lot of question marks going into 2013.
Despite a 9-7 finish for a second straight year, the Giants finished in second place and struggled terribly in the second half of 2012.
And now, the real work begins for Giants GM Jerry Reese.
Instead of watching his team go after another championship, he gets to prepare a lot earlier for the offseason and for 2013.
He has a lot of potential free agents that he has to decide on who stays and who goes.
Let's break down all of the potential free agents that the Giants have and determine if they stay on the team or will find new homes next season.
Will Beatty: Keep
2012 was a make or break season for Will Beatty.
Before 2011, Beatty was known as an inconsistent player who had been injury prone.
In 2011, Beatty missed the rest of the second half with an eye injury and even missed out on the Giants playoff run and David Diehl started in his place.
But in 2012, Beatty was able to show the Giants that he was able to stay healthy and play consistently all year for the team.
The 27-year-old solidified himself as part of the offensive line who could be around for a few more seasons for the Giants.
The offensive line is an absolute must as far as getting re-built and Beatty is a big part of it.
I think a four-year deal is in line for him, and I think Beatty will be one of the first free agents the Giants try to take care of.
Martellus Bennett: Keep
This one is an absolute no-brainer.
I will be the first one to admit, I was skeptical on Martellus Bennett for the Giants as their starting tight end.
And that is why I an glad Jerry Reese is my team's general manager; because he knows where to find talent.
After luring Bennett away from Dallas, he broke out with 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.
Bennett has been very vocal about wanting to stay with the Giants. and given that he's developing a rapport with Eli Manning in the offense, I think Reese sees how important Bennett is.
Last year, Bennett only got a one-year deal with the Giants because they wanted to see how well he would do as a starter.
I think the Giants will go for at least a three-year deal to keep Bennett with Big Blue.
Chase Blackburn: Keep
In a defense that was very inconsistent in 2012, Chase Blackburn was actually solid for the Giants.
The 29-year-old led the Giants in 2012 with 98 total tackles and had three sacks with one interception.
Blackburn doens't have the numbers that will make you jump out of your seat and he won't be a fantasy must-have on fantasy leagues.
But what Blackburn brings to the Giants is leadership, a nose for the football, toughness and is just one of those players that is good for a team to have.
His story of "from the NFL to the classroom to Super Bowl Champion" has been well documented and it made him one of the more well-liked and respected players on the team for what he had to accomplish to get back to the Giants.
He was on a one-year deal with the Giants in 2012, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets either another one-year or maybe even a two-year deal to stay and provide leadership for the unit.
Kevin Boothe: Keep
Like Will Beatty, starting left guard Kevin Boothe is also a free agent as well and the Giants have to figure out if they re-sign him.
Boothe played consistently well after he got the starting job last year during the Giants run to the Super Bowl and he wasn't part of the problem at offensive line.
Boothe will be 30 years old before the 2013 season and is even one of the few left from when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII back in 2007.
I think a good two or three-year deal will do to get Boothe back at left guard for the Giants. But since Boothe is getting up in age, I think the Giants should potentially look to the draft for a potential replacement.
But for now, Boothe should be back on the team.
Domenik Hixon: Walk
Domenik Hixon has been on the Giants since the 2007 Super Bowl run.
He's been used as both a kick returner, punt returner and wide receiver.
He's also spent a lot of time on the injured reserve, missing most of the 2010 and 2011 season with a torn ACL.
Hixon did recover and was part of the offense in 2012, catching 39 balls for 567 yards and two touchdowns.
But with the Giants looking to Rueben Randle and maybe even Jerrel Jernigan as potential parts of the offense, it just might be time for Hixon to move on.
If he doesn't get signed by anyone before the 2013 season, I could see the Giants looking to him as a midseason signing if anyone gets hurt.
But I don't think Hixon will go unsigned as a free agent.
Sean Locklear: Keep
I remember last April, many fans thought bringing in Sean Locklear was a mistake.
But, he actually turned out to be a really good signing for the offensive line and when he was inserted into the lineup in Week 2, his presence helped really helped out.
It was unfortunate that when he suffered a broken leg, it started the demise of the Giants offensive line, especially when David Diehl had to be relied upon to play every down.
Locklear will be 32 by the time 2013 comes around, and I have a feeling the Giants will look to draft a right tackle while cutting ties with Diehl.
The Giants have yet to show any interest in going with James Brewer as the starter, so if the Giants draft a tackle, they will likely need someone to either start the season or at least mentor the draft pick.
Having Locklear back on a one-year deal would be a nice stop-gap, just as long as his leg heals up in time.
Kenny Phillips: Walk
I have a feeling this one is not going to be popular by a lot of Giants fans.
But because of the emergence of Stevie Brown in 2012, Kenny Phillips might be looking for work elsewhere.
Phillips has battled a lot of injuries during his tenure with the Giants, especially in 2012 where he was limited to just seven games.
When healthy, Phillips is a great player and a great safety to have roaming the backfield.
But the problem is, the Giants can't ever rely on him to stay healthy enough for a full season.
With that, and Brown's presence, I think we'll be saying so long Phillips this spring.
Keith Rivers: Keep
I'm going to give Keith Rivers one more season, only because he's been with the team for just one season.
The Giants dealt for Rivers back in April and he showed glimpses of why he was a first-round draft pick back in 2008.
Rivers missed the entire 2011 season with the Cincinnati Bengals due to injuries, but was able to play in 11 games for the Giants in 2012.
He made 44 total tackles while playing as mostly a backup to Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley on the outside.
However, if the Giants decide to move Kiwanuka back to defensive end full time, that could get Rivers more playing time at linebacker.
I could see Jerry Reese giving Rivers a one-year deal for 2013 to see if he can cut it full time as a starting linebacker.
Lawrence Tynes: Keep
Lawrence Tynes started out having a nice season for the Giants and was very reliable.
But then as the season wore on, Tynes ended up missing some key field goals.
But when you look at the options on the free-agent market, they aren't that much better than Tynes.
So I can see the Giants holding onto Tynes for at least one more season, but don't be surprised if they bring in a veteran kicker to compete with Tynes during training camp to push him for his job.
Osi Umenyiora: Walk
This one is rather easy to figure out.
The Giants have gotten tired of Osi Umenyiora's act.
Osi Umemyiora has gotten tired of being a backup in New York.
And this, with Umenyiora a free agent, there isn't much left for Umenyiora on the Giants, who has been with the team since 2003.
So now, Umenyiora will enter the free-agent market as one of the top pass-rushers and will likely get one last decent pay day from a team desperate for help at the end.
It's been a nice run for Osi in New York, but his time is up.
Andre Brown: Keep
Before his injury, Andre Brown was having a really good season and had become the replacement for Brandon Jacobs.
Brown had 385 yards on the ground with eight rushing touchdowns, most of which were from one-yard out, which means Brown became the Giants primary short-yardage and goal-line back.
It was unfortunate though that Brown was forced to miss the rest of the season with a leg injury, an injury he suffered against the Green Bay Packers.
The injury did allow David Wilson to get more playing time, but Brown will still likely be brought back in 2013 because of how effective he was in 2012.
Stevie Brown: Keep
This is an absolute no-brainer given that Stevie Brown might have been the best player on the Giants defense in 2012.
With Kenny Phillips on the sideline for most of the season, Brown got the chance to start and made the most of his playing time.
Brown made 74 total tackles and lead the Giants with eight interceptions.
He's only a restricted free agent, but I think the Giants will reward Brown for how well he performed.
I don't know if they will lock him up long term or give him a "prove it" type deal in 2013, but either way, Brown will likely be starting for the Giants in 2013 at strong safety.
Victor Cruz: Keep
In the infamous words of the movie Jerry Maguire, "show me the money."
It is time for the Giants to pay Victor Cruz, who had another fine season in 2012.
After a breakout season in 2011, Cruz repeated it with a solid 2012 by catching 86 passes for 1,092 yards and hauled in 10 touchdowns.
Cruz never complained about not getting paid, but he made it known that he wanted an extension with the Giants.
It was nice to see a player in today's NFL go out and show that he should get paid without making a stink about it.
And that's what Cruz did. Cruz showed Jerry Reese with his play that he should be a Giant for a very long time.
I see either a five- or six-year deal in Cruz's future to keep him around and make a lot of fans very happy this spring.