New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese hasn’t been afraid to get his hands dirty this offseason.
If New York wants to extend its winning ways into the 2013 season, the entire organization must adhere to a strict blueprint for offseason success.
Between the release of three established veterans—running back Ahmad Bradshaw, linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Chris Canty—and the slow-moving contract talks with luminary wide receiver Victor Cruz, the Giants front office has done quite a bit to stir the pot.
Much like the 2011 offseason, when the Giants cut mainstay offensive linemen Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert, the spring and summer months can resemble disarray.
However, there is harmony within the apparent chaos, as the Giants’ brain trust is strategically forging the foundation for yet another championship run. The formula is as follows:
Find Financial Stability
This is the ugly part of the organization’s offseason duties, but it’s one that is essential for future growth. Bradshaw, Boley and Canty were the first to be shown the door this offseason; it’s uncertain whether or not more overpaid veterans will be handed their walking papers.
There’s also the option of restructuring existing contracts.
While cornerback Corey Webster and right tackle Dave Diehl have not performed up to their 2013 price tags as of late, defensive end Justin Tuck is the only player that has reportedly been approached by the team about his current contract (via Tom Rock of Long Island Newsday).
The Giants will not break the bank for an undeserving player, but Cruz’ current contract demands present a challenging dilemma. Reese will try to keep the issue from looming over the team’s head like a dark cloud, even if a training camp lockout becomes imminent.
On that same note, oft-unhappy defensive end Osi Umenyiora is not expected to return, allowing him to test the market for that big payday for which he has been longing. Conversely, the Giants are focused on retaining low-risk high-reward players, reflected by the recent contracts awarded to cornerback Terrell Thomas, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and tight end Bear Pascoe.
Emphasize the Rising Core
Quarterback Eli Manning may be the only irreplaceable Giant on the roster, but there are several other contributors that are valuable enough to warrant their return in 2013. New York has been very clear regarding members that fall into this category.
One is defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
After fielding the 31st ranked defense in 2012, it was not illogical to assume that Fewell’s job security would be called into question. Coughlin quelled those rumors before they ever began, claiming that he had no intention of making changes to his coaching staff on Dec. 31, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
Similarly, the Giants have shown an interest in re-signing several pivotal soon-to-be free agents, such as tight end Martellus Bennett, left guard Kevin Boothe, left tackle Will Beatty and middle linebacker Chase Blackburn.
A pair of restricted free agents—running back Andre Brown and safety Stevie Brown—appear to have bright futures in New York, as both players are expected to be retained through 2013.
The importance of young players, like wide receiver Rueben Randle, is heightened this offseason, emphasizing the team’s desire for a smooth transition.
Randle is the “heavy favorite” for the Giants’ third wide receiver position, according to Michael Eisen of Giants.com. Running back David Wilson and linebacker Jacquian Williams should anticipate much heavier roles in light of recent cuts at their respective positions.
Plan Around the Draft
The undoubted way to succeed in today’s NFL is through consistent and effective drafting. Reese’s “best player available” strategy has worked well for New York, as the Giants prefer to pick up an impact playmaker as opposed to a sufficient stopgap at a position of need.
The most pivotal pick, of course, will be the first-rounder.
Enticing prospects at offensive line and linebacker—positions at which the Giants are particularly weak—will likely be available when the Giants pick at No. 19.
But, unless a superior talent at one of those positions inexplicably falls to them, the Giants are more likely to pick a defensive lineman or cornerback, enamored by their athleticism and potential as a professional.
New York must select well into the later rounds, too. The Giants have not drafted exceedingly well in rounds four through seven under Reese, but a few mid-to-late-round gems like Andre Brown (fourth round, 2009), Jacquian Williams (sixth round, 2011) and Bradshaw (seventh round, 2007) have turned good drafts into great drafts.
The Giants could use another great draft in 2013, especially since New York’s two fourth-rounders in 2012, tight end Adrien Robinson and tackle Brandon Mosley, and sixth round tackle Matt McCants, each failed to take the field once last season.
Mop up in Free Agency
The most troublesome, immediate issues should be dealt with in free agency.
If some coveted free agents, namely safety Kenny Phillips, Beatty and Bennett, are unable to be retained due to the interest they garner on the open market, New York will certainly part ways and search for a more cap-friendly solution.
The move is probably precautionary, as 2012 starter Lawrence Tynes was a first alternate for the 2013 Pro Bowl and is listed as the top free-agent kicker by Adam Caplan of CBSSports.com. Still, these are the safe moves the team needs to be making.
The Giants will surely use free agency as a means to bolster the positional units that dragged in 2012. An experienced (yet economical), veteran linebacker or offensive lineman will help reenergize the Giants’ undermanned units.
An underrated way in which New York adds valuable talent is through undrafted free agency.
UDFAs always fight the hardest in training camp, and the Giants’ find former UDFAs, such as Cruz, fullback Henry Hynoski and linebacker Spencer Paysinger, that are capable of playing significant roles with the team.
Keep an eye on the UDFAs the Giants sign this spring, as one of them could end up being the team’s unsung hero in 2013.