New York Giants: Should Big Blue Look to Jake Ballard If Martellus Bennett Bolts

Doug RushSenior Analyst IMarch 4, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11:   Jake Ballard #85 of the New York Giants carries the ball against  Anthony Spencer #93 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Last June, the Giants took a gamble and lost by putting Jake Ballard on waivers.

General manager Jerry Reese had hoped he would pass through waivers since he would be out for the entire 2012 season recovering from an ACL injury and surgery suffered during Super Bowl XLVI.

Ballard didn't clear, as he was claimed by the New England Patriots, who were already deep enough at the tight end position.

Some writers like Gary Myers from the New York Daily News felt that Bill Belichick was making the waiver claim just to mess with the Giants because he was still upset over losing his second consecutive Super Bowl to his former employers.

Ballard did not take a single snap for the Patriots in 2012 and is a restricted free agent, but the Patriots already have two of the top tight ends in the entire NFL with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

It's not clear whether or not the Patriots will try to bring Ballard back to compete for a spot in 2013, or if they will simply let the former Ohio State Buckeye walk.

The 25-year-old undrafted free agent had a very good season with the Giants back in 2011 and showed signs of developing into a reliable passing option in the offense, as he caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdown receptions.

After Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, the Giants brought in Martellus Bennett and drafted Adrien Robinson in the 2012 NFL draft because they knew Ballard would be out of commission for this past season.

However, Bennett is a free agent and there is a very good chance that he may not be back with the Giants in 2013.

At the tight end spot, there is the unproven Robinson, who my fellow Giants writer and colleague Tamer Chamma speculated on this past week if he was ready or not to be the starter.

And there is Bear Pascoe, who is more of a third option tight end and second option fullback who can occasionally catch a pass, but is more used in blocking situations.

If Bennett does in fact look elsewhere to play, the Giants will likely need a third option for the spot, and with the team likely looking to spend money in different spots, a tight end that won't cost them a huge salary.

This is where Ballard could fit in.

If the Patriots don't end up bringing Ballard back, I think he would be a fit again with the Giants by reuniting with the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

Ballard's knee should be all healed up and ready to go for the 2013 season so he can resume his NFL career.

Now, since Ballard is what is called an exclusive rights free agent and all the Patriots would have to do is make a qualifying offer to Ballard (approximately $630,000) in order to keep him.

But that doesn't mean Ballard is guaranteed to be on the team for 2013. What if he gets cut during training camp because the Patriots don't need his services, especially with Gronkowski and Hernandez.

And what if the Patriots decide to stock pile and draft someone like Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame with one of their picks. Don't laugh, that could happen.

Ballard, Robinson and Pascoe would be a solid tight end trio, and the Giants could just say good bye to Bennett.

Now, I did like Bennett, but I think he also benefited from playing with Eli Manning and got great coaching from Mike Pope, one of the league's best tight end coaches.

Ballard was always a favorite of Manning, so I'm sure he would love to have him back again, if possible.

I honestly think the Giants never wanted to let Ballard go in the first place last summer and really regretted making the waiver move with him.

But if he's available as a free agent and the Patriots somehow don't bring him back, then I think Reese should consider getting him back.