NFL Free Agency 2011: 6 Players the New York Giants Must Re-Sign
With the end of the lockout just around the corner, the most frenzied free agency period in living memory is looming on the horizon.
Teams will be scrambling to sign players they should already have (or not have) on their roster if the offseason had proceeded as planned. Trades will be made, players will depart, fans will groan, and power will shift.
For the Giants, this is a particularly sticky situation. There are 21 free agents on their roster, and obviously not all of these players will be sticking around.
Guys like Michael Johnson have no place on the team and should not even expect an offer, while others like Barry Cofield are going to command serious cash to keep. Even if the team wants to keep them all, they can't afford to.
Jerry Reese and his staff have some big decisions to make, taking both talent and price into consideration. Here are seven players they must retain to stay competitive, nearly a full third of the free agents.
6. Deon Grant
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A pleasant surprise in 2010, Deon Grant was expected to be a simple backup to the tandem of Antrel Rolle and Kenny Philips. Instead, Grant played just as well as either of them, and the Giants extensively used a three-safety set for much of the season.
Given Kenny Philips penchant for injury, and the current state of the Giants' linebacker corps, they would do well to re-sign the 10-year veteran. Having the best triple-threat of safeties in the league will offset some of the damage done by the weak linebackers.
A ball-hawking safety is a good asset on any team, and the wily veteran will be able to teach Prince Amukamara a thing or two as well.
Look for Jerry Reese to offer Grant an incentive-laden short term deal with a raise.
5. Bear Pascoe
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There are probably a good number of fans who don't even know who this guy is. Make no mistake though: he is an invaluable asset to the Giants.
Bear Pascoe came out of nowhere this year, a third-string tight end playing fullback in place of the injured Madison Hedgecock. As it turned out, he excelled in the run-blocking role, a fact proven by the stats of the Giants running backs after he took over.
Of course in the world of professional football, it should be easy to find a big guy who can block, but the important thing to remember is that Pascoe is experienced and fits in the system, and he will come cheap.
The Giants will have to give him a raise, but the services he provides are well worth his price tag.
Expect to see the Bear mauling defenses for New York in 2011.
4. Kevin Boss
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Kevin Boss has proven himself to be a solid cog of the Giants offense From his 45-yard run in Super Bowl XLII, to his game-winning touchdown against Jacksonville in 2010, this sixth round pick has made himself valuable.
His blocking ability has contributed immensely to both the running and passing game, and though his targets have dropped off in the last year or so, he still commands attention, making him valuable in the passing game nonetheless.
He does not have an incumbent successor, and the Giants could get him cheaper than any other similarly-talented tight end on the market.
3. Kevin Boothe
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The Giants' O-line was once their greatest asset. They are still incredible, but have begun to show their age in the last couple of seasons. With age and injury starting to take their toll, the Giants need line reserves more than ever.
When Shawn Andrews and David Diehl went down, Boothe stepped up magnificently. Since the Dolphins snapped up Mike Pouncey, it is more important than ever that the Giants hold on to their O-line reserves. Boothe is a solid lineman, and can play both tackle and guard.
Keeping him will go a long way towards making sure the offensive line will survive the 2011 season. They'll have to pay him, but that is worth the security he provides.
2. Ahmad Bradshaw
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Ahmad Bradshaw is an interesting choice this offseason. The little man has shown some serious promise, rushing for over 1,000 yards in his first season with significant snaps. Moreover, he is a solid pass-catcher.
The problem as many in the organization see it, is his durability and penchant for fumbling. While it is true that Bradshaw had a troubling number of fumbles in 2010 and experienced injuries, his upside far outweighs his downside. He runs fast, hard, and keeps going until his whole body is on the floor.
Bradshaw has also shown a remarkable ability to run while injured. It is a rare back who can rush for over 100 yards in a game with two fractured feet. More importantly, there are no good options on the team to replace him, and the free agency pool is filled with running backs with the same problems as him.
Bradshaw is a solid offensive weapon, and his injuries and fumbles will keep his price reasonable. This is one signing that Jerry Reese should jump at on day one of free agency.
1. Steve Smith
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This one is a no-brainer. Since joining New York as a rookie in 2007, Steve Smith has proven himself to be one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, if not THE best.
He has been Eli Manning's go-to guy on third downs since the 2007 Super Bowl run, and he is only a year removed from a 1,200 yard season with a pro-bowl appearance. He is a high character player and fits like a glove in the Giants' offensive system.
There is no reason not to retain him for next year. With Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham the Giants have an extremely potent passing attack.
His injury will drop his price a bit too, so really there is no downside to keeping him. Jerry Reese is not a foolish man, which is why Smith will be a Giant for 2011 and beyond.