Ranking the New York Giants' Top 7 Free-Agent Targets
The New York Giants should tread carefully when free agency begins on March 12th. Despite having an overwhelming number of team needs, the Giants front office will need to maintain a patient approach to free agency.
The foundation for a winning football team is rarely built through signing big-name players.
Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles.
Free agency is a time best spent filling needs. The Giants typically operate in this fashion because they can seamlessly plug in veterans into starting positions. Subsequently, general manager Jerry Reese can draft the "best available" player for developmental purposes in April.
Players coming off their rookie contracts are the primary targets for New York this spring. Combining an affordable price tag with a solid upside on the field ideally suits the Giants.
A conservatively futuristic approach will help New York avoid the pitfalls of free agency. Here is a look at the top seven players the Giants should target on March 12th.
No. 7: CB Darius Butler
Darius Butler experienced a baptism by fire during his first few seasons in the NFL. Despite struggling to fulfill expectations in New England, the former second-round pick in 2009 finally came into his own last season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Although he is an unheralded cornerback, Butler fits the description as a top free-agent target for the Giants.
This former UConn defensive back will turn 27 later this month and will have an affordable price tag. In 2012, Butler tallied 31 tackles and four interceptions. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
The Giants should be intrigued and encouraged by the improvement Butler exhibited in his ball skills and durability last season.
Regardless of how the Corey Webster situation plays out, New York must bolster its defensive backs unit. The worrisome proposition of inserting Michael Coe or Justin Tryon into sub-packages would be completely eradicated if Butler signs on the dotted line with Big Blue.
No. 6: OT Barry Richardson
Barry Richardson showed signs of improvement as a right tackle for the St. Louis Rams in 2012. Despite being subjected to ridicule during his early years in Kansas City, it appears Richardson is finally coming into his own.
The Giants are looking for a cheap, long-term solution to their right tackle position.
David Diehl's decline has subjected him to speculation of being a cap casualty this offseason. While Sean Locklear is an option to take over at right tackle permanently, the brutal knee injury he suffered in 2012 is a cause for concern.
The size and strength of Richardson instantly make him a free agent with tremendous upside.
At 27, Barry Richardson would bring youth to an aging offensive line. The above-average range he showed in pass protection last year will also garner him some attention this spring.
No. 5: DT Alan Branch
The Seattle Seahawks' Alan Branch is a defensive tackle who would immediately impact the Giants run defense that ranked 25th in the NFL last season. This player exhibits a solid skill level and uses every bit of his 325-pound frame to take up space.
The pairing of Branch with Linval Joseph on the interior of the defensive line will be a disruptive one.
Branch is 28 and still has his best years ahead of him. He has no glaring weaknesses in his game, and GM Reese will be able to approach him without much hesitation.
The prospect of Marvin Austin starting for New York in 2013 should initiate a movement to sign a veteran free agent at defensive tackle. Question marks surrounding Austin's durability and work ethic make him an unreliable football player at this point in his career.
As the Giants shift their focus on improving a once vaunted pass rush, they would be keen to start this process from the inside out.
No. 4: CB Sheldon Brown
At 34, Sheldon Brown doesn't exactly meet the criteria as a free agent approaching his prime. Despite this handicap, Brown is coming off a phenomenal campaign as a starting cornerback for the Cleveland Browns.
His instincts are something the Giants lack defensively.
A two-year contract would enable the Giants to squeeze out the remains of Brown's talents while he mentors their young cornerbacks. This would also allow defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to use Prince Amukamara and Brown interchangeably as the top cornerback, depending on the matchup.
GM Reese will be reluctant to sign an aging cornerback. Free agency is about signing a player based on what he will do in the future, not what he has done in the past.
Despite the prevailing theory against signing Brown, the Giants desperately need a veteran defensive back. Is it worth the risk to see if he has any juice left?
No. 3: DT Glenn Dorsey
The fact that Glenn Dorsey was a bust as a fifth-overall draft pick in 2008 is undeniable. That should not, however, deter the Giants from courting him this offseason.
The release of Chris Canty has left a gaping hole in the middle of the defensive line. Dorsey's exquisite strength and short-area quickness from the interior would quickly relieve that issue.
The lack of production out of this highly touted prospect was due in large part to the Kansas City Chiefs' misuse of his talents.
Dorsey should be able to thrive as an interior lineman on a 4-3 defense with his ability to plug holes. The beneficiaries of Dorsey's presence would most notably be the linebackers playing behind him.
Considering Dorsey missed the majority of the 2012 season with calf injuries, he could conceivably come with a low asking price. At 27 years of age, Dorsey is a prime candidate to be a steal in this free-agent class.
No. 2: CB Greg Toler
There is no better match for the Giants than Greg Toler in terms of the criteria they should be looking at during free agency. A late-bloomer approaching the prime of his career, this cornerback comes with a cautionary tale.
Toler name has been followed by the terms "underrated" and "under-the-radar" this offseason. This begs the question: How many times does a player need to be labeled as underrated before he starts to become overrated?
During the 2012 season, Toler displayed superb skills as a physical corner for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Giants' lack of physicality prevented them from jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage last year. Toler would improve this flaw, buying the defensive line precious time to rush the passer.
If the market for Toler can avoid inflation, the Giants should attempt to gain his services.
No. 1: LB Erin Henderson
A weak crop of middle linebackers in free agency will direct most of the Giants' attention to shoring up the position from the outside this spring. The Minnesota Vikings' Erin Henderson would go a long way toward improving a dreadful Giants run defense from 2012.
The insertion of a quality run defender into New York's linebacking corps could potentially be their greatest area of need.
Henderson would be a nice fit with a Giants defense that often uses a three-safety look. Henderson is primarily a two-down linebacker who possesses overwhelming strength and tackling ability.
The Giants' inability to force 3rd-and-long situations last year stems from their struggles against the run. Targeting a 26-year-old run-stopper from the second level almost makes too much sense for Jerry Reese.
If Henderson does not command a king's ransom, he is an option the Giants should explore.
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