Defensive end Justin Tuck was a huge factor in the New York Giants' two Super Bowl wins over the past several years, and his new team is hoping that he can be a championship catalyst once again as the Oakland Raiders signed him to a two-year, $11 Million contract according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
The team confirmed Schefter's report later in the afternoon:
Tuck told Vic Tafur of The San Francisco Chronicle that he was surprised to be a Raider:
"I did not see this coming, It wasn't on my radar. But I am excited. I like the direction of this team and the history of the Raiders, and I just want to be a part of it."
Tuck's Giants career was somewhat of a roller-coaster ride, but he enjoyed stretches of dominance that made him one of the league's best pass-rushers. The 30-year-old veteran sacked opposing quarterbacks 60.5 times in nine seasons with Big Blue.
Unfortunately for Tuck, injuries often prevented him from performing to the best of his abilities. After picking up at least 10 sacks in three of four seasons from 2007 through 2010, Tuck experienced a bit of a rough patch. He missed five games between the 2011 and 2012 campaigns, and he had just nine sacks combined in those two seasons.
Although the Giants struggled in 2013, Tuck enjoyed a resurgent season. Not only did he play in all 16 games, but he also ended the year with 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and 63 combined tackles. The sack total was just one off his career high. Tuck was particularly beastly down the stretch with 9.5 sacks in New York's final six games.
Tuck appeared to be en route to another disappointing year with just six weeks remaining in the regular season, but he was finally able to hit his stride, and he ultimately made himself a lot of money by turning things around when he did.
In the wake of his bounce-back campaign, Tuck's agent, Doug Hendrickson, made it clear that his client would be among the premier pass-rushers on the open market, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com:
Justin is by far the most complete d-end in the class. He can play the 4-3, he can play the 3-4.
He obviously had an incredible season last year with every stat he had with the tackles, tackles for loss, the hurries and the sacks. They were up there with the upper-echelon defensive linemen.
It was once considered inconceivable that the Giants would think about re-signing Tuck based on his recent decline, but his late-season outburst caused general manager Jerry Reese to rethink things.
According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Reese admitted that Tuck still had something left in the tank:
Reese also expressed a desire to potentially keep Tuck in the fold, but he was largely noncommittal, per Vacchiano:
With pass-rushers at such a premium in the NFL, it came as no surprise that there was plenty of competition for Tuck's services. This is undoubtedly a passing league, so getting to the quarterback is of the utmost importance. That is why Tuck was such a hot commodity.
At the same time, there is reason to worry about Tuck replicating his 2013 production moving forward. He was having a miserable season through the first 12 weeks, and many of his sacks came in bunches, including six in two games against the lowly Washington Redskins.
His stats were obviously inflated late in the year, and they covered up his three months of relative ineffectiveness. Teams have to pay for sacks, but there is no guarantee that Tuck will be able to reach the 11-sack mark in 2014 after needing a miraculous run to do so this past season.
Tuck is undoubtedly a risky proposition; however, he has proven to be a big-time player and a difference-maker in the past, so he was a risk worth taking.
It can be argued that Tuck was the biggest key to New York's Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in 2008 as he sacked Tom Brady twice. He followed that up with two more sacks of Brady in the Giants' 2012 Super Bowl triumph, so he is a player who is capable of rising to the occasion.
Tuck was one of the more enigmatic players on the market this offseason due to his fluctuating production, so there is no question that he will be worth monitoring throughout the 2014 campaign and beyond as he tries to live up to his new deal.
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