The New York Giants will look back on the developments of the 2013 free-agency period with regret. While several bargains were begging to be snatched on the open market, the Giants have remained relatively coy thus far. Overplaying this strategy in what figures to be a down year will haunt New York.
It's safe to say just two years removed from the lockout, the owners worked DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA over in deliberations.
What proves this you ask?
For starters, the NFL and its owners have a dearth of resources the NFLPA could never dream of matching.
Commissioner Roger Goodell's nearly $30 million salary from the owners in 2011 was also a signal of their appreciation for getting them the deal they desired.
Now, however, the true effects of the owners' mastery have been revealed. Players are no longer able to command the large salaries they thought they would, slightly crippling the market for free agents this spring.
The contracts signed by Cliff Avril (two years, $13 million) and Michael Bennett (one year, $4.8 million) this offseason, re-establishing the NFL's success in leveling the playing field for the future.
Teams are spending less on players and committing fewer years. With this recent development, the Giants could have done better for themselves in free agency.
New York's most egregious error in judgment came when safety Kenny Phillips decided to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Miami Hurricane signed a one-year, $2 million deal last week with the Giants' division rival.
The contract signed by Phillips can only be described as cheap. Yes, in normal walks of life, two million bucks is nothing to sneeze at, but since when did teams shy away from taking smallish risks?
Rather than matching Philly's deal, the Giants went ahead and had Stevie Brown sign their $2.02 million tender for next season.
It is impossible to logically ascertain why the Giants chose to pay Stevie Brown more money than their former first-round pick from 2008. Sure, Phillips has had a plethora of knee injuries through the years, but his talent speaks for itself.
The Giants took a cautious approach at safety, likely because they felt they had more pressing needs in other areas. For instance, linebacker is a position fully lacking the talent or potential necessary to be successful in the NFL.
In case your eyebrows aren't quite elevated yet, take a look at the contracts signed by three different free-agent linebackers this offseason.
Player A: 57 total tackles in 2012, 0 sacks. Signed to a one-year, $715,000 deal.
Player B: 79 total tackles in 2012, 3 sacks. Signed to a two-year, $4 million deal.
Player C: 122 total tackles in 2012, 1 sack. Signed to a two-year, $6.5 million deal.
The players listed above are, respectively, Dan Connor (A), Erin Henderson (B) and Ray Maualuga (C).
General manager Jerry Reese evidently set out to save money when he signed Dan Connor this offseason. The mystifying result of this signing is New York's inability to commit more than one year to a veteran linebacker.
Perhaps the signing of Connor is indicative of the Giants' desire to draft Georgia's Alec Ogletree in April's draft. The more likely scenario, however, is New York will simply continue to neglect the linebacker position as they have done for several years.
The final faux pas committed during free agency was the four-year, $14.25 million deal given to tight end Brandon Myers.
With loads of needs across the board, the Giants chose to dole out a rare long-term contract to a tight end, the same position that has seen the likes of Jake Ballard, Kevin Boss and Martellus Bennett thrive.
None of these aforementioned players has the reputation of an elite pass-catching threat. Often times in 2012, Bennett forgot to look over his shoulder for passes intended his way. Nonetheless, Eli Manning has had tremendous success hooking up with his tight ends.
Manning's history with tight ends raises questions over why the Giants would commit four years to a player who is widely regarded as the worst blocking tight end in the NFL.
An emphasis on making life easier on young running backs like David Wilson has clearly been disregarded as a result of Myers' signing.
While the deal given to Myers was not an outrageous one, the Giants could have done better with their money. A reasonable alternative would have been to spread the $3.5 million a year given to Myers on a better option at linebacker or right tackle.
"In Reese We Trust" is a slogan that will be tested in 2013. Jerry Reese has yet to fail or even provide a sliver of reason to doubt him thus far in his tenure as general manager. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement constructed in 2011 has handcuffed the Giants, however. It's now Jerry Reese's job to help them escape.
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