Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
If there’s one thing about the days leading up to free agency that creates a sense of panic, it’s all the chatter and positioning that goes on between teams and some of their pending free agents.
In the end, however, it’s usually much ado about nothing.
Let’s look specifically at defensive end Justin Tuck.
On Dec. 31, 2013, a day after the Giants’ season ended, Tuck told reporters that he wanted to retire as a Giant.
“I would love to retire as a Giant. Everyone knows how great this place is and how great this organization is, these fans, this city, this region and that’s the ideal [situation],” he said, via Tom Rock of Newsday.
“But I understand that football is a business and just like the Giants are going to assess this whole situation and do what’s best for the team, I have to do the same for myself. But I have no doubt that we’ll sit down and take our time and hopefully make something happen.”
One month later, Tuck was singing a different tune, telling Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, “I will see what the market is for me. I’ve never been in this situation before, and it’s a great opportunity for myself. I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t see what the market is, and I will.”
The third element to the puzzle came during the combine when general manager Jerry Reese told reporters that he encouraged Tuck and the rest of the Giants’ pending free agents to test the market.
“Tuck is going to go to the market and see what’s out there for him,” Reese said, via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News.
“I had talks with all those guys, and free agency being free agency, that means you go out and try to get as much money as you can. I’m always in favor for guys getting as much money as you can. And Justin’s going to see what the market is. We’d love to have him back but we’ll see where it goes.”
So what gives?
There have been many instances where a player tends to overvalue what he thinks he’s worth, something he finds out when he tests the market.
This is very similar to what happened with running back Ahmad Bradshaw in 2011. Bradshaw was coming off a 2010 season in which he rushed for 1,239 yards and eight touchdowns and was said to be looking for a big cash payout.
The Giants weren’t willing to overspend for him, and so he tested the market only to find out that the rest of the NFL didn’t think he was worth the big bucks either.
When reality set in, Bradshaw re-signed with the Giants.
That is what I think is going to happen with Tuck. While he’s a very good player, a couple of things need to be noted.
First, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Tuck graded out as the fourth-best 4-3 defensive end among those who took at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps in 2013.
Statistically speaking, the 30-year-old Tuck was fourth in sacks with 12, ninth in quarterback hits with 12, eighth in solo tackles with 36 and sixth in stops with 37.
If Tuck’s agent believes his client to be, per NJ.com, “the most complete d-end in the (free agent) class,” then it’s probably safe to assume that he’s looking for Tuck to be paid accordingly.
However, there’s a difference between being “complete” and being “productive.” The defensive ends who end up getting the big money are of the latter group.
Reese knows that Tuck is probably not going to be viewed as the most productive of the free-agent defensive end class, and the statistics would certainly support that theory. Thus, he’s willing to let Tuck and his agent find out the same.
In the end, if Tuck sees that the big money isn’t there, he will need to decide if he can live with a reduced annual salary playing for the only team he’s ever known and playing in a market where he has loads of marketing and philanthropic opportunities.