Making the Call on New York Giants' 5 Toughest Offseason Decisions
There's certainly something off about this offseason for the New York Giants.
A year ago, Big Blue was slithering through the NFL playoffs en route to its fourth Super Bowl title. After sitting on a perpetual hot seat, quarterback Eli Manning was ingrained in football's national landscape, while head coach Tom Coughlin was heralded as one of the game's masterminds.
With sound personnel and a respected organization, the Giants had an easy offseason. This time around, however, winter seems decidedly colder, with New York facing a bevy of criticisms and uncertainties as the 2013 kickoff approaches.
Despite identical 9-7 records the past two years, question marks from a season ago are suddenly accentuated. The Giants need help at the defense's second level and face a bunch of tough decisions about offensive free agents.
Check out the five biggest calls surrounding the G-Men this offseason and the answers that could have the Giants back in contention come September.
What Should Be Done with Kevin Gilbride?
It's no secret that the Giants underperformed on both sides of the ball this year.
Big Blue set a franchise record for total yardage allowed, and much to the chagrin of many fans, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will be returning next season. While it's rumored that Coughlin's entire staff will be on the books again in 2013, the grumblings for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's job have become progressively louder.
Gilbride's unimaginative red-zone play-calling and strange use of personnel have been troubling, and the Giants scored a combined 14 points in the pivotal Weeks 15-and-16 stretch.
Still, Gilbride's established a game pace with quarterback Eli Manning, albeit a painfully slow one, and his offense did rank second in the league in points per play at .443.
Gilbride's on thin ice, that's for sure. But with wideout Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw injured throughout the season, he gets one more shot.
Verdict: Keep him on staff
What Position Should the Giants Draft for in the First Round?
CBS' Dane Brugler has the Giants taking BYU end Ezekiel Ansah in the first round of April's NFL draft. By all accounts, Ansah is a physical freak, but is stocking the defensive line the right call in round No. 1?
The Giants' 31st-ranked defense clearly needs some help, and with a slew of free agents ready to hit the market, acquiring a defender through the draft makes sense here.
Yet New York already boasts perennial Pro Bowlers in ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, while tackle Linval Joseph is coming off a career year.
Big Blue desperately needs help in the secondary, but with youngsters Jayron Hosley and Prince Amukamara at corner, New York will ultimately look for an outside or inside linebacker. With Notre Dame's Manti Te'o falling in recent mocks, Giants fans can get excited about the available talent.
Verdict: Draft a linebacker
Should the Giants Re-Sign Osi Umenyiora?
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora has tallied double-digit sacks in three seasons and set an NFL record in 2010 with 10 forced fumbles. But with years of tense contract negotiations and an undeniable decline in potential, Umenyiora's days in New York might be over.
Osi was decidedly slower off the edge this year and only recorded six sacks. While he's been a fan favorite for nearly half a decade, he'll likely expect a hefty new contract in free agency.
Umenyiora told ESPN New York that it's "probably time to move on." With two starting ends in place and a need to upgrade elsewhere, it looks like he's right.
Verdict: Let him walk
Can the Giants Trust Terrell Thomas?
Remember Terrell Thomas? Unless you've been spending more time watching operating rooms than gridirons, you probably forgot about New York's hard=hitting corner from a few years back.
Thomas was the Giants' No. 1 option in the secondary before undergoing consecutive ACL surgeries in 2011 and '12. If he's set to return to camp, can the G-Men trust him to resuscitate this depleted cornerback position?
Thomas may be moved to safety, although the jury's still out on his future in football. Thomas' athleticism and agility made him a natural playmaker, but three career surgeries will certainly slow a guy down.
Ultimately, the Giants saw the decline of veteran corner Corey Webster and had to stomach the deterioration of an injured Kenny Phillips. Another medical red flag will continue to burden this defense.
Verdict: Don't expect much, if anything at all
Should the Giants Re-Sign Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe?
In 2011, New York's front line was a mess. The Giants allowed 12 hits on Eli Manning in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco alone.
In 2012, however, the G-Men found stability in the O-line. New York's pass protection was among the best in the league, with a second-ranking adjusted sack rate of just 4.2 percent.
The Giants see two starters from this season enter free agency in guard Kevin Boothe and tackle Will Beatty. While Beatty's struggled with inconsistency at times and Boothe is still a bit weak against the blitz, New York needs these guys back, plain and simple.
There's plenty of other talent out there, both in free agency and the upcoming 2013 draft class, but the Giants need to hang on to what works.
Verdict: Re-sign both