New York Giants: The Biggest Question Marks for Blue Blue's Offseason
Heading into the 2012 season, the New York Giants were expecting to defend their Super Bowl title of a year ago.
Instead, they finished at 9-7 and sat at home watching the postseason.
Many felt that the Giants could have taken the next step as an elite team that got even better; but instead, they took a step back as a franchise.
So now, both Giants GM Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin must ask themselves a lot of questions this offseason on how to get better.
There's a possibility that some very popular players could, in fact, be cut this offseason if they don't take pay cuts due to age or simply to get under the salary cap.
What will be the biggest question marks that the Giants face as they head towards the spring and summer?
Do They Keep Ahmad Bradshaw or Go with David Wilson as the Featured Back?
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Ahmad Bradshaw is a very big part of the Giants offense.
And whenever he gets injured, it always takes away a dynamic part of that offense.
In 2012, Bradshaw had one of his best seasons, rushing for 1,015 yards and scoring six touchdowns plus 245 receiving yards.
The one knack on Bradshaw is the fact that he has trouble staying healthy for a full season, which makes the question of keeping him or cutting him a tough one.
Do the Giants hold onto Bradshaw for one more season, or do they part ways after six seasons and go with David Wilson, their first selection in the 2012 NFL Draft?
I think if Wilson was a bit more polished, then Bradshaw's days would be numbered, but Wilson is not.
I think Bradshaw will be back for at least one more season, but then after 2013, your guess is as good as mine.
Does Justin Tuck Stick Around for at Least One More Season?
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During the 2012 season, the Giants pass rush was an utter disappointment.
Their leader in sacks was Jason Pierre-Paul, who had just 6.5 sacks. A year ago, JPP had 16.5 sacks.
Long-time defensive end Osi Umenyiora will likely not be brought back after spending almost 10 years with the team.
But the biggest question surrounding the defensive line is Justin Tuck, who is the defensive captain and leader of the Giants.
The 29-year-old has had two disappointing seasons that also were filled with injuries, which is why his sack totals were very low.
In 2011, he had just six sacks and in 2012, he had just four, which are very un-Tuck like.
Tuck has made it very clear that he wants to play for the Giants for a very long time and the team has to decide if he's worth keeping around for another season.
Given the fact that Tuck is the team's vocal leader and, when healthy, is a force to stop, Jerry Reese will likely keep him and see if he can turn it around in 2013.
How Can They Keep Hakeem Nicks Healthy?
One of the biggest reasons why the Giants didn't get back to the playoffs was the absence of Hakeem Nicks during the season.
In fact, go find the game film from Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Nicks absolutely destroyed the Tampa secondary for almost 200 yards.
Nicks was not healthy for the entire season, and it clearly showed in his numbers: 53 receptions, 692 yards and three touchdowns.
Over the last two years, Nicks has been a consistent 1,000-plus receiver, but had to deal with knee injuries in the season. Plus, he was recovering from a broken foot during the summer.
The Giants absolutely must figure out a way to keep Nicks healthy so he's fresh and ready to go in 2013.
Whether it be holding him back in training camp or holding him out of OTA's, I don't care what the Giants and their medical staff has to do—they need to keep him healthy.
When he's on the field, Nicks and Victor Cruz rank near the top as one of the best one-two punches in the sport.
Get Nicks healthy, and the Giants should see their offense get even better in 2013.
How Do the Giants Revamp the Offensive Line?
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The offensive line for the Giants needs to be re-built.
Age and injuries have caught up to the group and I think Jerry Reese knows this.
David Diehl has a year left on his contract, but is a candidate to be cut after having one of the worst seasons as a professional.
Right tackle Sean Locklear took over for Diehl back in Week 2 and helped solidify the offensive line until his unfortunate injury against the Washington Redskins where he had to be placed on IR with a broken leg.
Locklear's status for 2013 is uncertain since he's trying to battle back from such a tough injury at his age.
Center David Baas has a lot of money owed to him over the next three years and he needs to be able to play more consistently tougher on the line, plus stay healthy.
Right guard Chris Snee is still their best lineman, but needs to have hip surgery this winter.
On the left side, both starting left tackle Will Beatty and left guard Kevin Boothe are free agents, and the Giants need to decide if they are coming back or not.
I don't know if Jerry Reese wants to completely rebuild the line through the draft, which would be a very risky move, but he does need to start looking towards the future.
If Beatty and Boothe are not brought back—and I can't see both being let go—then Reese has to do some scrambling before April.
What Kind of Contract Do They Give Victor Cruz?
There's two things we are all pretty clear about.
1. Victor Cruz wants to be a New York Giant for a very long time.
2. He's due for a big pay raise.
The Giants didn't give him the contract extension last winter coming off his breakout season of 82 catches, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, mostly because they wanted to see if he could be consistent.
And in 2012, Cruz showed everyone that he can be, putting up 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdown catches and was selected to the NFC side of the Pro Bowl.
Cruz is a restricted free agent, so the Giants can match any offer that a team tries to give Cruz.
I cannot see the Giants letting one of their most popular and dynamic players walk away after emerging as a lethal threat on the field.
The only question remains: what is Cruz looking for in a long-term deal?
I could see the Giants going with a five-year, $42.5 million deal as a starting point in negotiations and working from there.
How Do the Giants Get Under the Salary Cap?
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Heading into the 2013 season, the Giants are roughly $4.7 million over the salary cap, as reported by John Clayton of ESPN.
It's not a terrible number for the Giants to figure out, but even so, they still have to get that number down, plus re-sign their own free agents and bring in new talent for the next season.
As fellow Giants Featured Columnist Kevin Boilard wrote back on November 7, the team has quite a few players who can afford to restructure their deals in order to save money.
Ahmad Bradshaw is due to make $3.75 million.
Chris Canty is due to make $6.25 million.
Justin Tuck is due to make $4 million.
Antrel Rolle is due to make $7 million.
Chris Snee is due to make 6.45 million.
Corey Webster is due to make $7 million.
Eli Manning is due to make $13 million.
David Diehl is also set to make $4.1 million, but I think he gets cut from the team.
Manning already restructured his deal last season to create some salary cap space, so I don't know if he will do it two years in a row.
But the others can afford to restructure if it meant saving their jobs and not getting cut.
I bet if Jerry Reese restructures a lot of these players deals, he can get under the cap and still afford to sign his draft picks, plus sign his own free agents and any new talent.