NY Giants Rumors: Fact or Fiction Ahead of the Start of Free Agency
Ready or not, the start of NFL free agency is right around the corner. And oh, what an exciting time it promises to be, as teams enter the annual mad scramble to court some of the top free agents.
While teams like the Philadelphia Eagles have already begun taking care of some of their own free agents in advance of the March 11 signing frenzy, the New York Giants have stood pat, perhaps waiting to see what the final NFL salary-cap figure—announced by the NFLPA to be $133 million—would be.
Based on the estimates provided by Over the Cap, the Giants’ salary-cap situation looks as good as it’s been in years if my estimated figure of $19,288,183 is accurate.
That’s a healthy amount of cap space for a team whose offense in particular is in need of a significant talent infusion.
So how will the Giants spend it? Will they create even more space moving forward?
Let’s look at some rumors that have begun to swirl in advance of free agency and try to anticipate if those rumors are fact or fiction.
Fiction: Running Back David Wilson Will Be Ready for the Start of Training Camp
If there is one thing I’ve learned covering the NFL, it’s that you never take what a player coming off injury says at face value.
It’s one thing to feel good in terms of doing everyday activities. It’s quite another when one has to do things that the body just isn’t meant to do, such as absorb a physical pounding like what comes from pro football.
That brings us to running back David Wilson. Based on his Twitter and Instagram postings, Wilson appears to be the picture of health just a little more than five weeks after undergoing a surgical procedure to address a herniated disc in his neck.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, citing “a source close to Wilson,” reported “that the running back will be ready to play this summer and is already working out and ahead of schedule.”
The Giants, however, have a different perception of were Wilson is in his rehab. Head coach Tom Coughlin said, via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, that Wilson’s availability for training camp is still a mystery.
“Do I think he’s ready for camp? I really don’t know the answer to that question,” Coughlin told Hubbuch.
“A lot has to do with his attitude and the way he feels and the way the doctors and trainers feel. He’s not going to be put out there unless he’s ready for that.”
Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger offered a more defined perspective, noting that “a progression in rehab is not enough to change their risk assessment” of Wilson’s situation and that the team is still forging ahead with contingency plans.
If that’s not enough, consider that general manager Jerry Reese, who while continuing to express optimism that Wilson will be able to return to football, also told reporters at the combine that adding another running back is still on the team’s to-do list in “both free agency and the draft as well.”
If Wilson were assured of being ready to return for camp, would the Giants be placing such a high priority on getting another running back given all their needs? My guess is no.
So what might they do at the position? My guess is that Toby Gerhart of the Minnesota Vikings will get a look.
As I noted in my analysis of what we might expect from Ben McAdoo’s new offense, Gerhart fits the mold of a running back who can protect the passer, something McAdoo told reporters on a conference call is a must if the player is to get on the field.
Given that Gerhart is only 26 years old and has minimal tread on his tires, the Giants should be able to get him for a cap-friendly contract if he is indeed atop of their wish list at running back.
Fact: The Giants Will Pursue a Starting Guard in Free Agency
It’s no secret that the Giants offensive line is in dire need of some new talent.
David Diehl has retired, as many thought he might do.
Chris Snee, in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio last week, said he’s hoping that he will continue to feel as good as he has of late when he starts to do football activity later this spring. Because of his age and his recent injury history, he is not a sure thing.
Meanwhile, the depth currently under contract doesn’t exactly inspire a warm and fuzzy feeling.
There is also James Brewer, who started eight games last year but whose inconsistent play probably didn’t make a strong enough case to assuage any concerns about whether he was ready to become a permanent starter.
Brandon Mosley held his own in limited snaps before breaking a hand, his second straight season-ending injury.
Eric Herman, the team’s seventh-round draft pick in 2013, spent most of the year on the practice squad, only finally being added to the 53-man roster at the very end of the season when the Giants were out of options and out of salary-cap space.
Kevin Boothe is an unrestricted free agent who I think will be brought back. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Boothe had to start at left guard again, though if the team can get a younger veteran to anchor that spot, I’m guessing that would be its preference.
Getting back to Snee, while there is hope that he’ll be able to play out the final year of his contract, the Giants would be foolish to put all their eggs in that one basket, just as they would be foolish to count on having running back David Wilson ready for the start of training camp.
All of those factors leave it obvious that if the Giants are going to fix their offensive line, they’ll need to start at guard, as NJ.com recently reported.
Who might the Giants be targeting? My guess is that 25-year-old Jon Asamoah of the Kansas City Chiefs might be a solid fit if the price is right.
Asamoah lost his starting job in 2013 to Geoff Schwartz, who is also an unrestricted free agent. It’s highly unlikely that the Chiefs are going to re-sign both players.
Assuming Asamoah does hit the market, it will be interesting to see what kind of money he’s looking for. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if Asamoah is among the first free agents the Giants call.
Fiction: The Giants Have Not Ruled Out Reuniting with RB Ahmad Bradshaw
The first thing that needs to be clarified right off the bat regarding the rumor of the Giants possibly reuniting with Ahmad Bradshaw is that general manager Jerry Reese, who when asked about such a possibility at the combine, never mentioned Bradshaw by name.
Reese’s response, which you can hear at the 4-minute, 31-second mark in this video, was, “We’ll keep all our options open.”
The Giants haven’t been afraid to dip into the past to reunite with former players—cornerback Aaron Ross and running back Brandon Jacobs are two recent examples of former players who were brought back after a year spent on other clubs.
However, as Reese also noted in the video when he was asked about offensive lineman Chris Snee, the older a player is, generally the more difficult for him to return from major surgery.
Bradshaw, who turns 28 later this month, had season-ending surgery on his neck for what he later revealed to be a “pretty serious” issue.
“The doctors took the bulging disc off my spinal cord, which caused my blood pressure to drop. It was pretty serious,” he said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.
If the Giants are concerned about young David Wilson recovering from his neck surgery, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they might have reservations about signing another older player who had neck surgery as well?
Granted Bradshaw’s procedure was done three months earlier than Wilson’s, but as Reese said during a radio interview with WFAN in early January (via CBS New York), “the neck and the back are pretty tricky, so you never know.”
He's right in that you never do know what might happen. However, if you’re going to express concern about a younger player recovering from neck surgery, wouldn’t the same logic apply to an older free agent who also had a surgical procedure done and who also has a history of foot problems?
Fact: Justin Tuck Will Re-Sign with the Giants
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.
Fiction: The Giants Will Draft an Offensive Lineman in the First Round
When I first started looking at this year’s draft class, I was firmly convinced that the Giants would draft an offensive lineman in the first round.
Lately, I’m starting to think that might not be the case.
In having done a lot more extensive study of the 2014 draft class, I think the quality of guards and tackles is so deep that the Giants could probably wait until the second or third round to dip into that position.
In order for the Giants to fix their offense, they have to improve the offensive line in a hurry, which means they need players who can come in on day one and be a starter.
While right tackle Justin Pugh did just that, what people forget is that the move was made after David Diehl had to have thumb surgery.
Historically speaking, the Giants rarely put their first-round draft picks on the field starting day one. Per Pro-Football-Reference, Pugh became the first Giants first-round draft pick to start on opening day since cornerback Aaron Ross in 2007.
As I wrote in my second slide, the Giants will look to acquire a veteran guard whom they can plug right into the starting lineup.
They’ll also continue to work with youngsters Brandon Mosley, who’s entering his third season, and James Brewer, who will be a four-year veteran, to get them further along in their respective developments.
So what does that mean for the Giants’ first-round draft pick? As I wrote in my analysis of what we might be able to expect from the Giants’ new offense, I think they look to target the skill positions.
If restoring the vertical passing game is what the Giants are going to be looking to do, they’re going to need a receiver and a receiving tight end to make it happen.
The wideout class seems to be deep, whereas the tight end class, while having some good value throughout, has a couple of difference-makers who could be there when the Giants are on the clock.
Again, I do think that the Giants will draft an offensive lineman at some point, maybe even two if they get a compensatory pick.
However, if they want to fix what ailed quarterback Eli Manning in 2013, they probably would be better off going with experience, at least in the beginning, and making sure they get him better receiving options to go along with Victor Cruz.
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