It would have sounded absurd just over a month ago, but longtime New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora’s preference is to stay with the team that drafted him 56th overall way back in 2003, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
This is quite a change of heart from the days leading up to New York’s Week 17 tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles, a game which Umenyiora firmly believed would be his last in a blue and white No. 72 jersey.
“It’s a high probability that I’m going to be playing somewhere else and I think everybody knows that,” Umenyiora told reporters in December (via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York). “Let’s not kid ourselves.”
Schwartz points out that the Giants have a lot to tend to other than Umenyiora’s contract this offseason because the Giants have between 22 free agents and salary cap restrictions to deal with. ESPN’s John Clayton projects that the team is $4.7 million over the cap for 2013.
New York will find it difficult to pay Umenyiora,
Money talks and stars like Umenyiora usually walk.
However, would it be unheard of for a player as oft disgruntled as Umenyiora to stick around for another contract, forgoing the freedom and paycheck he’s been aching for? There are three reasons to believe he’ll do just that.
If Umenyiora leaves New York behind, he’ll also be ditching a truly unique defensive scheme. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell may not be the second coming of Bill Belichick when it comes to shut-down strategy, but he knows how to use his pass-rushers.
With the "NASCAR" package and similar defensive sets, Fewell likes to put his talented speed-rushers on the field. With the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul as of late, Umenyiora probably won’t be a starter with the Giants, but he’ll sure get his chances to chase after the quarterback.
Umenyiora is a very specialized talent. He only likes to play the right side, and his run defense is nothing to write home about. His lack of versatility could hurt his playing time with any of the other 31 NFL teams, but Umenyiora will always have a home with the Giants.
If Umenyiora walks, he’ll risk running into the same problem Brandon Jacobs had in San Francisco: not fitting into his new team’s plan. The former New York bruiser surely regretted his decision to leave the team, as Jacobs barely played at all, concluding the season with a suspension.
The last place Umenyiora wants to be next year is on the bench in an unfamiliar city, longing for another shot with his old squad.
At times, Umenyiora felt like the Giants really did him wrong in contract squabbles. The one time All-Pro went so far as to call general manager Jerry Reese a liar in a sworn affidavit back in June of 2011.
Miraculously, a one-day holdout and a Super Bowl championship later, Umenyiora and the Giants were able to resolve their differences, allowing the defensive end to play out the final year of his contract in happiness.
He negotiated the one-year, $6 million deal in 2012 without the aid of former agent Tony Agnone, who thought the deal was “substandard,” according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
Now, Umenyiora has two new agents, Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Condon is one of the league’s most powerful agents and just happens to represent both Manning brothers, so he’s familiar dealing with the Giants organization.
Co-owner John Mara expressed his desire to see Umenyiora return to the Giants in 2013 last week, saying, “I would love to have him back” (via Youngmisuk). Mara also realizes, however, that there are “economic considerations” when dealing with re-signing Umenyiora.
Could the patched up relationship between Umenyiora and the Giants’ brain trust be enough to lure him back to the team?
There’s something special, something pure, about playing an entire career with only one team, and Umenyiora knows it. Umenyiora told Schwartz that he wants to “finish my career with the New York Giants, the team I’ve been with.”
We see it every year. Once great, now broken-down players sign one-day contracts with their old team just so they can retire wearing the colored threads of their glory days. Not every player has the opportunity to suit up with one team from rookie debut to retirement.
Umenyiora has played nine NFL seasons all with the Giants. (He missed the 2008 season with a knee injury.) His 75 sacks, 32 forced fumbles, two Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro selection have left a lasting mark on the organization. It’s hard to imagine him playing anywhere else.
Umenyiora can become the latest great New York defender to spend his entire career with Big Blue. It is a storied list that includes Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan.