The New York Giants' Blueprint to Winning Free Agency
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Now there's a start.
After making some noise with a slew of high-profile releases last month, the New York Giants took a step closer to readying for 2013. They inked defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins to a three-year deal, filling the void left by veteran Chris Canty.
Still, the G-Men have their work cut out for them this offseason with minimal cap space. Check out a guide to Big Blue's free agency this spring, complete with positional needs and targeted talent.
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After hauling in 55 passes and notching five touchdowns, tight end Martellus Bennett quickly won fans over in New York. A colorful personality and a physical run-blocker, Bennett is the logical choice at the tight end position.
True, the Giants could target a tight end in the draft, like Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, but Bennett's already spent a year in the system and has expressed explicit interest in returning to New York.
The Giants ostensibly want him back as well.
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After re-signing Will Beatty to a healthy contract, the Giants won't have much money to spend on a guard this offseason. Bringing back incumbent starter Kevin Boothe makes the most sense here to preserve line cohesion and save some coin.
Boothe struggled with picking up the blitz last year and is inconsistent at times, but he's still a great fit with the Giants. Former Patriot Donald Thomas is also an intriguing option at guard, as there's a chance he'll get lost in the free agent shuffle with wideout Wes Welker and cornerback Aqib Talib in New England.
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What to do, what to do?
The Giants' most open-ended positional gap lies at linebacker, where the team has already severed ties with outside 'backer Michael Boley. Needing help at all three spots, the first step would be to sign veteran Daryl Smith for a cheap price.
After spending most of 2012 on injured reserve, Smith recorded six tackles in two games for the Jaguars. As an eight-year veteran who topped 100 tackles in 2011, Smith's age and recent history will drive his asking price down this offseason.
Smith could be positioned opposite Mathias Kiwanuka or Jacquian Williams on the outside, or could play in the middle to replace looming free agent Chase Blackburn. He's run-focused and ready to provide veteran leadership—this is a perfect fit.
Expect the Giants to re-sign Blackburn if his cost is low enough, while the G-Men will likely target a linebacker in the first round of April's draft. Rey Maualuga and Larry Foote are likely too pricy, while James Harrison will be pursued by just about everyone.
One quiet target could be Green Bay's Brad Jones, who notched 77 tackles last year. Jones has experience at inside and outside linebacker, and will likely fly under the radar after only starting 10 games in 2012.
Jones, Smith and a combination of Kiwanuka, Williams and Herzlich could make for a solid linebacking core.
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With Corey Webster already taking a pay cut for 2013, the Giants have a solid number of returning cornerbacks. The question: Can any of them play well enough to warrant a starting spot?
Webster, Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley all struggled last year, but the Giants can't afford to spend much on a free-agent corner. Tampa Bay's E.J. Biggers is the best fit, likely touting a low asking price despite holding things down for the Bucs last season. Walter Football is pretty high on him, and he's certainly affordable.
Atlanta's Brent Grimes would be a high-risk, high-reward signing similar to Terrell Thomas. Former Jaguar Derek Cox would also be a good choice after tallying four interceptions in 2012.
Still, with three corners engrained in the system already in place, don't expect the Giants to do much here. The draft is always another option.
If the Giants can snag Cox, it would be huge for a secondary that slumped to the back of the pack last season. If not, Biggers and the returning corners will have to hold down the fort.
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Stevie Brown will get his money as a restricted free agent after notching eight interceptions in 2012. Set to start aside Antrel Rolle, the Giants may have to cut ties with Kenny Phillips if the money's not there.
Interestingly enough, the G-Men have expressed interest in former Packer great Charles Woodson. The seven-time All-Pro is 36 years old, but would bolster the playmaking potential of New York's secondary. Still, the Giants should not overspend here, and re-signing Brown is the top priority.
The Bottom Line
Yeah, it's boring, but the Giants have never been ones to make noise over the winter. Adding a few veteran defenders and resigning Boothe and Bennett are the best moves the Giants can make to win free agency before a crucial draft next month.