Picking 1 Free Agent to Fill Each of New York Giants' Holes
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As usual, the New York Giants have been quiet since NFL free agency opened up on Tuesday afternoon. The Giants brought back cornerback Aaron Ross (h/t Mike Garafolo, USA Today) who spent 2007-2011 with New York, and signed kicker Josh Brown (h/t Jenny Vrentas, Star-Ledger), a 33-year-old who most recently played with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Still, New York has a few holes left to fill.
The Giants’ remaining salary cap room, which Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News now pins at less than $1.5 million, will prohibit the team from fulfilling all of its needs in free agency.
By restructuring/extending/cutting a few existing contracts, though, the Giants may be able to plug a couple of gaps with some cap-friendly deals.
There’s almost no way the Giants will be able to acquire a replacement for all of these vacancies, but this article will highlight one realistic free-agent option to fill each hole.
LG: Matt Slauson
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Starting left guard Kevin Boothe is not out the door yet, but the Giants should be prepared in case he finds a better offer on the open market. While Boothe remains the team’s priority, Matt Slauson should be considered a reasonable replacement.
Slauson, a sixth-round draft choice by the New York Jets, has played out his rookie contract. He has started 48 consecutive games at left guard with the Jets, proving his durability—a trait that most Giants O-linemen lack—since his debut in 2010.
Boothe was the Giants’ best run-blocker in 2012, and Slauson, who is of similar size (Boothe is five pounds heavier), could carry the load Boothe may leave behind.
Brian Costello of the New York Post reports that the Giants have shown interest in Slauson, but so have the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, in addition to the New York Jets, who want to retain the young guard.
That type of interest could drive his price a little too high for New York’s liking.
WR: Early Doucet
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The imminent departures of wide receivers Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden wouldn’t create much of a stir on their own, but together it creates a noticeable void in the Giants’ receiving corps.
That’s where Early Doucet, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, fits in.
Earlier this week, reports claimed that the Giants were expressing interest in Josh Cribbs, a utility receiver from the Cleveland Browns, as a possible replacement for Hixon, who has reportedly received an offer from the Detroit Lions (h/t Garafolo).
Cribbs, who twice made the Pro Bowl for his kick- and punt-return abilities, seems a bit gimmicky, though, as he only contributed 105 yards on offense for the Browns in 2012.
Doucet is a better fit. He has a thicker frame (20 pounds heavier than Cribbs), making him more of a physical threat on offense. Doucet was never given a true starting role in Arizona, but he is only one year removed from a 2011 season in which he caught five touchdowns, compiling nearly 700 receiving yards.
With Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz (hopefully) and Rueben Randle slated to be the top three receivers next season, the Giants would be thrifty to pick up Doucet as an inexpensive, experienced fourth receiver.
DE: Dave Tollefson
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Aaron Ross rejoined the Giants this week after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars one year into his three-year deal with the Florida franchise.
Defensive end Dave Tollefson, who was cut by the Oakland Raiders, could be the next free agent to reunite with Big Blue.
With Osi Umenyiora chasing offers on the open market, the Giants need to replace the veteran defensive end with a reliable pass-rusher. Tollefson has proven in the past that he can produce (he had five sacks in 2011 as a reserve), but there are plenty of in-house solutions to consider, as well.
For example, talk of moving hybrid linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka back down to the line permanently is always popular at this time of year, but never comes to fruition. Adawale Ojomo and Matt Broha were both impressive in training camp and preseason last year, and both players will be back in 2013.
Also, the Giants just re-signed exclusive-rights free agents Adrian Tracy and Justin Trattou.
That’s a lot of young, hungry competition to warrant the signing of Tollefson, but, as Ralph Vacchiano reports, the Giants are interested in a reunion.
MLB: Jasper Brinkley
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Middle linebacker was a position of concern last year, as the Giants weren’t able to stop the run with Chase Blackburn centering the defense.
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports that Tom Coughlin’s top priority this offseason will be to fix the run defense, and he speculates that Jasper Brinkley could be part of the solution.
Brinkley, a 27-year-old who started 15 games at middle linebacker for the Minesota Vikings in 2012, visited the Giants facilities on Wednesday, per Schwartz.
The former fifth-rounder missed the entire 2011 season due to injury and only has one season’s experience as the full-time starter, which will allow the Giants—or any other team—to acquire him at a reasonably low price.
Brinkley collected 97 tackles last year, leading a defense that ranked seventh-best in the league in yards per rushing attempt. Brinkley, a 252-pound thumper, could be just the plug New York needs at the middle linebacker position.
Although Blackburn was offered a one-year, veteran minimum salary to stay with the Giants in 2013, he is receiving attention from the Dallas Cowboys (h/t Vacchiano), and his return may be unlikely.
Don’t count Mark Herzlich out as an option at middle linebacker, either, but of the four free agents listed in this article, Brinkley is the candidate most likely to join Big Blue.