NFL Free Agency: 8 Players the New York Giants Should Target

Jeff Shull@Jeff_ShullAnalyst IMay 31, 2011

NFL Free Agency: 8 Players the New York Giants Should Target

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 14: Linebacker Barrett Ruud #51 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sets for play against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 14, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    This week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the oral arguments against the ruling that placed the NFL lockout back in effect; many sources say this essentially means nothing since they won't make a decision.

    However, it could be a step in the right direction for the players and owners to eventually sit down and knock this thing out.

    When that happens, the free-agency frenzy will begin.

    The New York Giants haven't been linked to any major names on the market despite so many of their own players becoming free agents.

    Obviously the Giants could be looking at every free-agent name available for their positions of need, but for this article, I've narrowed the list down to eight of the best names out there.

    Now, admittedly, many of these guys are very good players who could be high priorities to re-sign for their current teams, but if the NFL keeps the same rules as 2010, then all of these guys would be free agents, according to a list by and

Kawika Mitchell, OLB

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    DENVER - DECEMBER 21:  Linebacker Kawika Mitchell #59 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates his interception of a Jay Culter pass late in the fourth quarter to intended receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos  at Invesco Field at Mile High on Decemb
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Mitchell was signed by the Saints during the season last year and they like what he brings to the table, but I'm not sure there is room for him on their roster.

    I bet the Giants wouldn't mind him making a return. Although he is in the latter part of his career, we cannot forget how effective he was playing behind the Giants' dominant defensive line in 2007.

    The Giants did not take a strong outside linebacker early in the draft—although Greg Jones was a great value pick in the sixth round and could win the spot—so they could be looking to sign a free-agent linebacker to fill the spot in the short term.

    Mitchell is not the only name out there, but he could be signed for little to nothing and is worth more than that in my opinion.

Justin Blalock, Guard

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  Justin Blalock #63 of the Atlanta Falcons spits water in the air as he runs onto the field during player introductions against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 20
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Falcons have two very good guards on their team in Blalock and Harvey Dahl, but Dahl was arguably their best offensive lineman and is a free agent himself.

    Blalock will command a decent contract but could take less money if he wants to stay on a contender with the Falcons.

    The Giants have some uncertainty at left guard and Blalock has started three straight seasons missing no games for the Falcons. I like that kind of durability and so would the Giants. 

    There are many avenues the Giants could take with the left guard position if Rich Seubert misses any games, and one route is to get a proven veteran.

Kevin Burnett, OLB

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 03:  Linebackers Shaun Phillips #95 and Kevin Burnett #99 of the San Diego Chargers celebrate a Phillips sack against the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium on October 3, 2010 in San Diego, California.   The Chargers won 41-10.  (Ph
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Burnett had a fantastic season for the Chargers and will probably be re-signed, but if the Giants are in the market for an outside linebacker, it doesn't get much better than Burnett.

    Although he played a middle linebacker in the 3-4, his talents are suited for the 4-3 OLB position, where the Giants have a need.

    He had 95 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 2010. With Keith Bulluck leaving, that's the kind of production that would get Giants fans excited as a replacement at the strong OLB spot.

Zach Miller, TE

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Zach Miller #80 of the Oakland Raiders in action during their game against the Denver Broncos at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Zach Miller is a big-time fan favorite in Oakland and it's hard to imagine him playing elsewhere, but the lure of playing for a contender could be too much to keep him around.

    He has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL the past few seasons and has done so with some of the worst QBs in the game.

    He has also only missed two games in the past four years and the Giants will have to evaluate Kevin Boss' concussion history. He hasn't missed much time for it and I think it could be a nonissue, but what do I know.

    The team doctors could convince the front office it's time to let Boss go, in which case Zach Miller would be more than a replacement—he'd be a step up.

James Anderson, OLB

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    NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 03:  James Anderson #50  of the Carolina Panthers in action during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on October 3, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    James Anderson had a quiet albeit beast of a season in 2010. He recorded 130 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception and 3.5 sacks. 

    However, it had taken him four years to have a productive year and it's easy for one to wonder if this was a breakout year or just a flash in the pan.

    That said, he is better than anyone the Giants have to play strong OLB right now, so if he doesn't re-sign with the Panthers—who have said they won't overpay for him—the Giants should take a look.

    Bulluck was incredibly productive at stopping the run last season, and if he left, Anderson's ability to stop the run would fill that hole.

David Thomas, TE

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08:  David Thomas #85 of the New Orleans Saints catches a pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Saints let Jeremy Shockey go, so they will probably look to keep David Thomas around. The former Patriot tight end is a big part of their future plans at tight end despite drafting Jimmy Graham.

    Drew Brees went as far as to call Thomas one of the best teammates he's ever had.

    So this looks like a long shot, but it's no secret the Giants will be looking for a receiving tight end in free agency. Whether they sign one is a different story.

Barrett Ruud, MLB

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    TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30:  Linebacker Barrett Rudd #51 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs the defense against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    These last two slides are somewhat of a wish list and take on the assumption that Jonathan Goff would move over and become the team's starting outside linebacker. He became a leader on that defense and I fully expect him to be on the field next season, whether it is in the middle or outside.

    Both Ruud and the guy on the last slide are going to be expecting big paydays after having extremely productive years to start their career.

    Ruud is definitely a middle linebacker first and foremost. He had 118 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception.

    It has been my contention for a long time that the Giants don't need a middle linebacker and I was mainly referring to the NFL draft when discussing that. However, if they can get Ruud to play middle linebacker it would be a step up over Goff despite the widely unexpected good year he had in 2010.

    They could move Goff over to the outside and solidify their defense as one of the best in the game.

Stephen Tulloch, MLB

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 1:  Stephen Tulloch #55 of the Tennessee Titans looks on during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field on November 1, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Another one of those players that would be difficult to imagine leaving his current team, Stephen Tulloch has also had a brilliant start to his young career.

    He finished 2010 with 160 tackles, one interception and one sack, and is considered by many to be the best 4-3 middle linebacker free agent.

    Again, I would want to keep Goff on the field, so Tulloch could take over the middle linebacker spot and Goff would simply move over.

    I don't have a preference of either Ruud or Tulloch, however, I do like Ruud's blue-collar roots and I think he would relate to New York's fanbase as he was not born in the city—he was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and went to the University of Nebraska.