LG Kevin Boothe should be the team's top priority.
With one week of NFL free agency already in the books, the New York Giants have been able to bung up most of their vacant roster spots without breaking the bank. In the month leading up to the draft, however, the team should still be contemplating its best remaining free-agency options.
New York still has some glaring deficiencies, and the prospect of bringing in a starter through free agency could still be on the table. But after signing tight end Brandon Myers and linebacker Dan Connor, Big Blue’s remaining acquisitions may be competing for reserve roles in training camp.
This article will highlight and rank the Giants’ top five personnel options heading into the second week of free agency.
Left guard Kevin Boothe has been considered one of the Giants’ top priorities, but he and the team have yet to agree on the terms of a new contract. As the team’s best run-blocker in 2012, Boothe should remain the team’s highest priority in free agency moving forward.
Boothe started in all 16 games last season. He first landed the job in the middle of the 2011 Super Bowl season; when left tackle Will Beatty was lost for the season, Dave Diehl, who had been playing left guard, kicked out to tackle and Boothe stepped into the interior. He has also filled in for center David Baas in spot duty.
Including playoff contests, Boothe has started at left guard for the Giants in 26 straight games. By signing Beatty to a new contract and working to restructure Diehl’s current one, the Giants have shown an interest in preserving the chemistry their offensive line built in 2012.
Boothe is an integral (and versatile) part of that chemistry, and New York needs to land him before the Panthers, Jets or Cardinals, each of whom has expressed interest in the 320-pounder, get their hands on him.
Like any other skilled businessman, Giants general manager Jerry Reese must also have a Plan B. In the event that Boothe finds a better offer on the open market, leaving New York with a gaping hole at left guard, Reese should pursue Matt Slauson.
If Boothe does not return in 2013, the Giants’ most experienced replacement will be Selvish Capers, a former seventh-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins who has only appeared in three games during two seasons' worth of service in New York. Slauson could help shore up that gap if Boothe is lost.
Slauson, a sixth-round draft choice by the New York Jets in 2009, 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.
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 as well as the New York Jets, who want to retain the young guard.
David Carr, the former first overall draft pick by the Houston Texans, was under the impression that he could compete for a starting job in 2013. Carr, who has been the Giants’ backup quarterback for four of the past five seasons (he spent 2010 with the 49ers), may have changed his mind after testing the quarterback market over the past week.
Matt Cassel (Vikings), David Garrard (Jets), Bruce Gradkowski (Steelers), Drew Stanton (Cardinals) and Chase Daniel (Chiefs) have already relocated to new teams, and not one of them is a clear front-runner for a starting job. ESPN.com still ranks 11 unsigned quarterbacks higher than Carr, making his shot at a comeback a pipe dream.
But he is not useless. The Giants, who currently have Curtis Painter under contract as Eli Manning’s sole backup, would benefit from Carr’s potential return in 2013. He is an experienced veteran who can help develop young pass-catchers in camp, and Carr can be trusted if asked to perform in spot duty.
If Manning, a notoriously durable quarterback, happens to go down for a game or two, who would you trust as his reserve: Carr, a former first-rounder who is familiar with the system, or Painter, a key contributor to the Colts’ drafting of Andrew Luck?
The Giants don’t have a pressing need along the defensive front—the Cullen Jenkins signing filled the team’s only notable void. With Osi Umenyiora shopping himself around, however, it would not hurt to add another veteran presence.
Although Israel Idonije, a career-long Chicago Bear, has expressed his desire to return for a 10th season with his hometown squad, the Giants should be eyeing him.
The Giants should be attracted to Idonije’s versatility. During his nine seasons in the Bears’ 4-3 defense, Idonije has played both defensive tackle and end. Standing at 6’7” and weighing 290 pounds, Idonije can play the run or rush the passer. He is only two years removed from his career-high 8.0-sack season in 2010, and he almost matched it with 7.5 in 2012.
If Idonije lands with the Giants, presumably for a cheap, one-year deal, he would ideally be used as a utility man, lining up on the interior as well as on the edge. Idonije would provide reliable depth, as he has managed to play in all 16 games for five of the past six seasons (15 games played in 2009).
The Bears could opt against re-signing Idonije due to his age (he is 32 years old), but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The Giants should choose to pursue Idonije if Chicago does not.
There haven’t been any reports claiming that New York has interest in Idonije, but there have been ones that speculate a possible reunion with ex-Giant defensive end Dave Tollefson. The 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl champ spent a miserable 2012 season with the Oakland Raiders and was cut from the team before free agency began.
Tollefson, who collected five sacks in a reserve role during his last season with the Giants, would provide reliable depth at defensive end. He is not as versatile of an option as Idonije, but he is a free agent that could very well be team-less late into free agency. He would be a steal if a last-minute need arises.
The Giants have plenty of young talent at defensive end, and a few pass-rushers are even poised for a breakout season. It seems unlikely for the Giants to sign a one-dimensional defensive end like Tollefson, who can play the run but isn’t effective lined up on the inside.
Still, Tollefson comes in at No. 5 because most of the Giants' needs have been addressed, making any further additions—other than left guard—a matter of increasing depth. Reese can never have too much depth at defensive end, and he knows what Tollefson brings to the table.