5 New York Giants Who Will Be on the Roster Bubble in 2014
“There is definitely some reconstruction that needs to be done.”
So said New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese at his year-end press conference as he bravely faced the inquiring minds of the media seeking answers for the thousands of fans left disappointed by an 0-6 start that turned into a 7-9 season.
Although the question regarding the direction of the roster in 2014 had to be asked, any denial of the changes that need to be made might very well have created an even bigger outrage than the 0-6 start itself.
So what kind of "reconstruction" awaits this team?
A lot of the upcoming free agents, listed here by Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, will probably not return.
Management will also identify those young players who need to step out of the shadows, as Reese sometimes likes to say, or else risk being handed an early exit from this team.
That brings us to today's list, which looks at five players who, for one reason or another, project to be on the bubble this year.
Guard James Brewer
Forced into the starting lineup due to injuries, James Brewer was a contributor to the sieve that tried to pass as the Giants offensive line this season.
While he possesses all the physical tools you could want in an offensive lineman, Brewer did not distinguish himself as a future starter.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he finished with a -8.9 overall grade in which he allowed one sack, four hits and 11 pressures, the pressures being the second most allowed by a Giants guard behind David Diehl.
Eight of those pressures, by the way, came in the last five games of the season, resulting in an overall -4.8 pass blocking grade and raising a question as to whether he regressed.
His run blocking grade wasn't much better, as he earned a -5.3 grade from PFF.
With the Giants expected to significantly upgrade their offensive line depth—they'll probably address this unit via free agency and the draft—this 2011 fourth-round draft pick is quickly running out of chances to earn a second contract from this team.
He could, in fact, be in danger of not making it through his rookie deal if he doesn't show improvement starting this coming spring.
Defensive End Mathias Kiwanuka
If you’re looking for a good example of a player who always put the team before his individual statistics, look no further than Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants’ first-round draft pick in 2006.
Kiwanuka entered the league as a defensive end, his natural position.
The coaches, however, saw something in the young man that made them think that he might be able to contribute in other ways, and that's why he switched to outside linebacker.
After the 2012 season, the coaches moved Kiwanuka back to defensive end, a move welcomed with open arms by the 30-year-old former Boston College star.
“To be able to slap your hand in the ground and not have to worry about going from one position to the other, it makes it more comfortable when you’re out there,” Kiwanuka told Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger last offseason.
“I’m not going to lie about that. It was a move I was looking forward to.”
At the end of the 2013 season, he had appeared in 109 games, with 71 starts, accumulating 36 sacks, 274 tackles and three interceptions, per Pro Football Reference.
Perhaps the switching back and forth ultimately hurt Kiwanuka’s production—it’s hard to say for sure.
Per the data at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he finished with a 5.1 grade at the end of the 2011 season and a -8.4 mark in 2012 when he split time at linebacker and defensive end.
This year, his -28.1 grade was the lowest grade of 4-3 defensive ends who took at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps.
If the Giants re-sign Justin Tuck, if Jason Pierre-Paul returns to form in 2014, and if Damontre Moore learns how to play against the run, Kiwanuka and his $7.05 million cap hit could be in danger.
Per Over the Cap, the Giants would be hit with $5.25 million in dead money charged to their 2014 cap if they terminate Kiwanuka's contract.
That’s, of course, assuming they don’t designate Kiwanuka as a post-June 1 transaction, at which point the dead money would be halved to $2.625 million for this year, with the balance hitting their 2015 cap.
Otherwise, by not designating Kiwanuka as a post-June 1 cap move, they would net a $1.8 million cap savings.
Center David Baas
Whatever it was, moving from the West Coast where he spent the first four years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers to the East Coast and the New York Giants, with whom he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2011, has not been kind to center David Baas.
Oh yeah, he’s won a Super Bowl ring.
He also, per Rotoworld’s breakdown of his five-year, $27.5 million contract, received a hefty $8.5 million to sign his name on the dotted line on a deal that also guaranteed him an additional $3 million.
All that has come with a heavy price to his health, especially in 2013 when he underwent multiple surgeries that included procedures on his elbow, hip and knee.
Perhaps the time away from the game—Baas was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury following Week 7 and after missing three games prior because of said knee injury—will cure all that has ailed Baas.
However, as I noted in my first attempt at a 2014 Giants mock draft, the 32-year-old Baas has dealt with a neck injury in at least two of his three seasons as a Giant.
That's an injury that might cause the team to rethink committing $8.225 million of cap space to this player.
If the Giants were to dump Baas’ contract, they would gain a $1.775 million savings, but would have to eat $6.45 million in dead money.
That's a rather hefty figure considering that as of right now, they have an estimated $16.716 million of cap space, based on the 2014 salary-cap projection of $126.3 million reported by Pro Football Talk and the $109,584,676 already committed to 2014's cap, per Over the Cap.
If Baas is in their plans, they could restructure him again to lower his cap figure, but that would mean pushing money into 2015’s cap.
If they want to move on, they could look to designate Baas as a post-June 1 transaction to gain additional cap space after June 1.
Running Back David Wilson
He was unfortunately correct.
After struggling with pass protection as a rookie limited his snaps, Wilson’s sophomore season was cut short by a neck injury that could, per ESPN, still require surgery.
That’s a big reason why general manager Jerry Reese admitted that the team isn’t counting on Wilson for 2014.
If Wilson is somehow able to resume his career without further risk of making his neck injury worse, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted could be the case, the 2012 first-round draft pick, whose five games this season saw a recurrence of ball security issues and inconsistent pass blocking, needs to amp things up.
He’s probably not in danger of being cut from the roster this year if he does return, but his status as a starter would appear to be in jeopardy.
A return to health is obviously at the top of the list for this young man.
If he does manage to get to that point, here’s hoping that he re-commits himself to fine-tuning every aspect of his game, including the pass-blocking role that the Giants running backs are often asked to execute.
Tight End Adrien Robinson
There’s not much to dislike about 6’4”, 264-pound tight end Adrien Robinson’s size.
However, while the second-year player out of Cincinnati certainly looks the part of a tight end that could be dominating, he has yet to show he can do it on the field.
To be fair, Robinson did lose this season to injuries, first a foot sprain, and then later on a knee injury.
What is perplexing, though, is why in his rookie season, he showed very little progress to convince the coaches in practice that he might be able to contribute even in the tiniest way on the offense.
Robinson, remember, was a fourth-round pick selected in the 2012 draft.
Hailed as the “JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) of tight ends” by general manager Jerry Reese (h/t ESPN), he got a late start in joining the team’s OTA program (because he was still finishing classes at the University of Cincinnati).
When he finally did report, Robinson just wasn’t able to catch up in the classroom. Instead, he spent the bulk of his rookie season in the inactive list.
Looking ahead, there’s little question that Robinson is facing a make-or-break year in 2014.
He’ll need to stay healthy, for starters. More importantly, he must show the coaching staff that he has a better grasp of the offense and can execute it consistently.
If he doesn’t accomplish those two things, it would not be surprising if the Giants, who are likely to pick up a new starting tight end either in free agency or in the draft, terminate Robinson’s contract early.