While the New York Giants spend cash on outside free agents in order to transform an offense that was often atrocious in 2013, they continue to smartly address the defense with an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality.
One day after retaining underrated in-house defensive backs Stevie Brown and Trumaine McBride, the Giants made their most important move of the free-agent season by agreeing to terms with middle linebacker Jon Beason on Wednesday, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Beason might not sack guys like Justin Tuck or Jason Pierre-Paul, and he might not intercept passes like Antrel Rolle, but you could argue based on what he did in 2013 that he's the glue that holds this sneaky-good defense together.
Many of us laughed when they traded for Beason in early October, but Giants general manager Jerry Reese must have seen something we were missing. Beason's career had taken a nosedive in Carolina, but it seemed a change of scenery was what the doctor ordered, as is so often the case when players come to a healthy organization like this one.
From Week 6 forward, he led the Giants and ranked 12th among all NFL linebackers with 65 tackles. That stat alone is overrated, but there's no mistaking Beason's impact as a steadying leader in the middle of that defense.
His presence was a game-changer, and the D turned things around in a big way thanks in part to his contributions.
|Giants defense, 2013|
|PPG (rank)||YPG (rank)||Takeaways (rank)|
|Without Jon Beason||36.4 (32nd)||395.2 (27th)||1.4 (24th)|
|With Jon Beason||18.3 (4th)||303.6 (5th)||2.0 (2nd)|
|Pro Football Reference|
Beason, who, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), was the 13th-most efficient tackler at the inside linebacker position in 2013, should only be better in 2014 now that he'll have a full offseason to prepare with his teammates, almost all of whom are returning.
It's not a perfect football world, and Linval Joseph won't be back. He signed with the Vikings yesterday. The jury's also still out on Justin Tuck's future. And although you always have to be cautious about players who excel in contract years, the fact that they weren't able to pay silly money to retain Joseph and might lose Tuck only accentuates how important it was to bring Beason back.
Joseph and Tuck were probably the best two run defenders on the roster last season, so losing Beason could have been a back-breaker.
Keep in mind that he's only 29 and has three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nominations on his resume. If indeed he's found new life in New Jersey, he could anchor that much-maligned linebacking corps for many years to come.
I know it's weird how quickly this has come to happen, but Beason is one of this team's leaders, and his career has taken such a sharp turn that it is now fair to call him one of the league's fastest and most reliable inside linebackers. Plus, he's in his prime.
So this was a no-brainer. The Giants don't care to spend big bucks and linebackers, and that is generally a good rule. Linebackers in 4-3 defenses don't win championships. But you still have to maintain a certain level of competence at that position, and Beason alone gives them respectability in the second level of the defense.
Now they can continue to add depth around him at reasonable prices, either in free agency or the draft. Nothing to fix here, just maintenance.