One of the more difficult decisions the Giants are going to have to make this offseason involves starting center David Baas.
Baas, who has two years left on the five-year, $27.5 million contract he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2011, has had horrible luck staying healthy.
Last year, he had multiple surgeries all over his body, the known surgeries including his hip, elbow and knee, the latter of which ended his season.
He’s also dealt on and off with a neck injury, which, per KFFL, has landed him on the team’s weekly injury report nine times since 2011.
When I last spoke to Baas in November, he said he had planned to continue playing. However, after taking a gamble on aging players coming back from injuries in 2013 that blew up in their face, will the Giants want to gamble on Baas, who will turn 33 in September?
They might have to, at least initially. Per Over the Cap, Baas has a $8.225 million cap figure for 2014, which is currently the fourth-highest total on the Giants’ top 51 contracts. Within that number is a $4.75 million base salary.
It’s unlikely that the Giants will want to plug a rookie into that important spot right off the bat. Free agency is always an option—Cleveland’s Alex Mack and Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith are two young veterans set to be unrestricted free agents, though per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Green Bay could be looking to keep Dietrich-Smith off the market.
If Mack and Dietrich-Smith are too expensive, the Giants might try to squeeze one more year out of Baas, who if he were cut before June 1 would only yield a $1.775 million savings.
If the Giants decide to keep Baas, his base salary would almost have to be reduced given that he’s coming off a season-ending injury.
In the meantime, the team could look to groom a young center to be the anchor of the offensive line for years to come. A couple of intriguing names to look for include:
Travis Swanson (6’5”, 310 lbs, Arkansas)
Widely regarded as the best center in the draft, the durable Travis Swanson, who started 50 games for the Razorbacks, is a two-time team captain who, per NFL Draft Scout, has athleticism to pull in the running game and who has better-than-average balance to hold up in pass protection.
In its scouting report, NJ.com noted that Swanson easily managed to get to the second level; however, he also had his struggles against bigger defensive tackles.
Bryan Stork (6’4”, 306 lbs, Florida State)
After starting as a tight end, Bryan Stork has played both guard positions. He also saw some practice snaps at left tackle before finally finding a home at center, where he started 13 games as a junior.
The recipient of the 2013 Rimington Trophy, given to the nation’s top center, Stork has been described as “tenacious and technically-sound” by NFL Draft Scout, who also praised him for his quickness and his ability to maximize leverage.
However, that same scouting report also notes that Stork’s lower body isn’t quite as thick or strong as his top half, the implication being that he would probably need a solid year in an NFL weight room before he could be ready for full-time action.