Allow me to become the first ever Bleacher Report writer to make reference to John Mayer. The popular musician has a song called "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," which is meant to analogize the state of couples who maintain relationships well past their expiration date.
If you're still reading, thanks. I appreciate it.
We're going down,
And you can see it too.
We're going down,
And you know that we're doomed.
Hanging on to players like Nicks is what prevents teams from evolving in a league that requires constant evolution. You have to know when to cut bait, and the Nicks era should meet its end right here and now.
I know, Nicks was a first-round pick only five years ago. I know, he put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011 and had 24 touchdowns only three years into his career. But in a league in which the average career lasts less than six years, you can't afford to live in the past.
The injury-prone Nicks has peaked.
Don't you think we oughta know by now?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
The Giants should know by now. Tom Coughlin once had a bad habit of hanging on to players beyond their prime, and Nicks is only 26, so I can see how it would be easy to confuse him for a player on the rise.
But by every indication, that isn't the case here, which is why the Giants would be better off sticking to a classic organizational mantra by refusing to overpay for a free agent.
And believe me, he'll be overpaid. That just goes with the territory when you're a free-agent wide receiver. Ask Mike Wallace, who signed a bloated five-year, $60 million in Miami last offseason, or Vincent Jackson, who somehow landed a silly five-year, $55 million deal in Tampa the year prior.
The Giants may have over $16 million worth of salary-cap space, according to Spotrac, but they also have an offensive line to rebuild. And don't forget that key defenders Linval Joseph, Justin Tuck and Jon Beason are also slated to become unrestricted free agents.
So while it's sweet that fellow starting wideout Victor Cruz is lobbying for Nicks to return, and while it's nice that Nicks himself has said that he wants to remain in New York, there likely won't be room for the 26-year-old unless he suddenly feels charitable and wants to offer up a massive hometown discount.
Even then, why get in the way of Rueben Randle?
|Hakeem Nicks vs. Rueben Randle (2013 stats)|
|Pro Football Focus|
Nicks was the only skill-position player in the NFL to be held without a touchdown despite playing at least 800 snaps in 2014.
He suddenly can't be relied on to score (only three touchdowns in 28 games dating back to the start of 2012), he can't be relied on to stay healthy (he's yet to make it through a full season and has missed time due to abdominal, knee, foot, shoulder, ankle and head injuries in the last three years alone) and he's generally unreliable (he was fined repeatedly this year for being late and missing treatment, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport).
Plus, he's lost that trademark breakaway ability that made him such a threat earlier in his career, as I evidenced here.
How often do players get that back?
Randle, meanwhile, was drafted as high as he was for this exact opportunity. He struggled nailing down his chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning early, but the 2012 second-round pick really flourished late in his sophomore season and appears ready to explode opposite Cruz in 2014.
Randle dropped only five passes all year, and zero beyond Week 8. Between Weeks 10 and 14 he caught 14 of the 19 throws Eli Manning sent his way. He finished with six touchdowns despite all of the problems Big Blue had on offense.
That was while Nicks' numbers plummeted. His drop rate of 11.1 ranked 34th out of 43 wide receivers who played at least half of their team's snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). And he was targeted much less often on deep balls, probably because he struggled to gain separation.
|What happened to Hakeem Nicks?|
|Rec %||Drop %||Yards/route||TD/game|
|First 3 seasons||62.3||7.3||2.2||0.57|
|Pro Football Focus|
The Giants can't risk dancing in a burning room here. There's a prettier, younger receiver waiting for a chance. Mom approves of him already.
Time to end this relationship and focus on a new one. Time to break up with Hakeem Nicks.