New York Giants Better Off Without Aging Justin Tuck

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 14, 2014

Dec 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck (91) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Tuck did some remarkable things for the New York Giants organization. Hell, if there was such a thing as an MVP runner-up in the Super Bowl, Tuck would have earned that honor twice during his time with the team. The two-time All-Pro had 60.5 sacks, 20 forced fumbles and 453 tackles in 90 starts over a nine-year span in blue, so he deserves a lot of love.

But if the Giants are serious about committing to a new mentality, and if they truly want to stop living in the past and looking forward, allowing the soon-to-be-31-year-old to walk to Oakland as a free agent was absolutely the right decision.

This wasn't totally about the money. The Giants probably won't be making any more splashes in free agency, and they certainly could have afforded to keep their longest-tenured defensive player around at $5-6 million per year. 

That was an option.'s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Tuck gave Jerry Reese and Co. a chance to bring him back before accepting a two-year, $11 million offer from the Raiders. And as Dan Graziano points out, the fact that the Giants didn't bite means quite simply that they decided they didn't want him back

That's baffling to some, because Tuck led the team with 11 sacks last year. It appeared he experienced somewhat of a rejuvenation during the second half of a contract year, recording 9.5 sacks during the final six games of the 2013 campaign. But that might have been fool's gold. The prospect of money talks, man, and the reality is that Tuck had just 10.5 sacks during his previous 37 games dating back to the start of 2011. 

Most sacks during final 6 weeks of the season, since 2000
1. Justin Tuck20139.5
1. Peter Boulware20019.5
1. Jason Taylor20039.5
1. Jason Taylor20029.5
5. Dwight Freeney20049.0
Pro Football Reference

Is he a well-rounded defensive end who can defend the run extremely well? Yes. Is there a chance there was more to his late-season hot streak than stat-padding in an attempt to get one last big contract? Definitely. Was he better than his sack numbers indicated in the previous two-and-a-half years? Sure. 

But that isn't enough to convince me that the Giants should have given him a new deal. 

I think the Giants were OK with losing Tuck for the same reason they didn't mind losing Linval Joseph earlier this week. They believe in their scouting and drafting ability, and it's time to let talented 2013 draft picks Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore take the torch. 

For years, this league's best teams have generally moved on from veterans before that inevitable decline. The Giants have struggled with that in the past, but they've learned their lesson. They aren't holding on too long anymore, and this is a great example. 

Time to find out what Hankins and Moore have. This is also an exceptionally deep draft, loaded with talented defensive linemen in the early rounds, and the Giants have two picks in the top 44 for the first time in a decade. 

I know it wouldn't have necessarily hurt to bring the guy back, but $5 million is still $5 million, and after breaking down Tuck's 2013 performance while considering his broad situation in a previous article, I still didn't feel he was worth that.  

This couldn't have been an easy decision, but it was the right one.