It is now officially the 2011 football season in the National Football League and every football fan is happy.
The results of the lockout ending are: rookie begin signing Tuesday, terminating players begins Thursday, and free agent signing will start Friday.
It is very easy to say that there’s going to be a lot of work done this week. Damage has already been done due to the lockout. The Hall-of-Fame game was cancelled, drafted rookies haven’t even signed with the teams that drafted them and free agents are still looking for new homes.
With the new salary cap installed and players not being able to opt out of their contracts, some teams are going to have to make adjustments. One team in particular is the New York Football Giants. The list of notable Giant unrestricted free agents is a very productive one. Productive in the sense of every unrestricted free agent carries great talent and will contribute to whatever team they decide to sign with. However, not everybody can be a New York Giant. The list of Giant free agents include:
RB- Ahmad Bradshaw
DE/LB- Mathias Kiwanuka
TE- Kevin Boss
WR- Steve Smith (from USC)
DT- Barry Cofield
FS- Michael Johnson
SS- Deon Grant
LB- Chase Blackburn
Those are just the names of some New York Giant free agents, and that’s not even the full list. However those are the names of players the Giants will have tough decisions to make regarding their futures.
We’ll start off with the obvious unrestricted free agent, Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw has expressed that he wants to return to Big Blue but is also willing to go to Miami if necessary. Necessary, meaning the Giants can’t re-sign him, won’t re-sign him, or are unable to re-sign him due to the salary cap.
Bradshaw is coming off his first ever full-time starting year, and his contribution to the team was also a key factor to helping the Giants upset the now 18-1 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII during the 2007 season. Bradshaw also stepped up big when Derek Ward tested the free-agent market and ended up in Tampa Bay before being cut and signing with Houston.
Now with Bradshaw’s return, everybody immediately suggests cutting Brandon Jacobs. Giant fans and NFL analysts believe the Jacobs-Bradshaw duo cannot exist anymore due to the fact that Tom Coughlin decided to name Bradshaw the starter last year. Jacobs had started for the Giants since 2007, the year after former Giant Tiki Barber retired. We all know he's not coming back to the Giants
However, anyone who is a Giants fan knows the friendship and the force that Jacobs and Bradshaw bring on the field. While Jacobs is more known for his power running, Bradshaw brings much more speed. Now some fans will suggest to move Jacobs to Fullback and have Madison Hedgecock be the back up, but that’s not really an option at this point. So if the Giants can re-sign Bradshaw, great. Bradshaw’s addition to the team does not suggest Jacobs subtraction.
However since the Giants drafted Da’Rel Scott and will be expected to sign him, it seems the running backs that won’t have a Giants Jersey on this coming season are DJ Ware, Martell Mallett and Charles Scott. On the off chance the Giants don’t have either Bradshaw or Jacobs (or in a scary scenario, both), the Giants may want to take a look at DeAngelo Williams, Ronnie Brown or Clinton Portis.
Portis seems eager for revenge against the Washington Redskins. But it’s unlikely the Giants will go after him. If the Giants are unable to get Bradshaw or Williams, and decide to add Ronnie Brown, that gives the Giants the option to run the wildcat formation. But again, the Giants are concerned with Bradshaw right now.
Or are they?
The Giants next step would be a possible return for Defensive End Mathias Kiwanuka. This is where some Giants fans (along with myself) begin to wonder, why the heck did the Giants draft Jason Pierre-Paul two years ago in the first round, when the Giants needed a linebacker?
Pierre-Paul has been a good addition for the team to this point, but Mathias Kiwanuka right now is a force to be reckoned with. When offenses are dealing with the Giants defensive ends, they have trouble with three obstacles, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka.
Kiwanuka would be a huge loss to the Giants' defense. Last year Kiwanuka was leading the Giants in sacks over the first five weeks of the season before suffering a neck injury that would put him on injured reserve for the remainder of the year. Kiwanuka even showed up for Giants' workout which were being held by Eli Manning during the lockout.
That’s a hint there that he wants to stay a Giant, unless he says otherwise. Bottom Line, the Giants need to re-sign him second to Bradshaw, if they don’t, the adjustment will be much tougher to handle.
Now we come to the Wide Receiver Steve Smith.
Ever since the retirement of Amani Toomer and the unfortunate event surrounding Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith had to step up big time for Big Blue. I hate to say it, but I don’t think he really has. Granted he was another contribution when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, since then, he’s really not been on his game.
Last year he suffered from injuries, and wasn’t Eli Manning’s No. 1 target anymore. Granted he is young, and is coming off an unproductive year, but with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden, Victor Cruz, Duke Calhoun and rookie Jerrel Jernigan already secure on the roster, Smith’s options appear limited.
Plus Smith’s future with the team will be a result hinging on if they bring back Bradshaw and Kiwanuka. With Bradshaw and Kiwanuka, Smith is gone. The Giants won’t be able to afford him. With just one of them (being Bradshaw and Kiwanuka), maybe Smith returns. So his future with the Giants depends on the other two signings. Bringing him would be ranked No. 5 five on the Giants free agent signing list.
As far as the receiving corps looks right now with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden, etc. The Giants may not be able to hang on to him anymore.
Why should the Giants put Steve Smith No. 5 on their list? A few reasons, first of all the Giants need a tight end. Kevin Boss has done a great job since replacing Jeremy Shockey in 2007, when Shockey suffered a season-ending injury.
However, finding another strong and capable tight end is going to be tough. Boss’ future with the Giants depends on if the Giants decide whether or not they want to go another direction. Other notable Tight Ends include the Raiders' Zach Miller, Rams' Darcy Johnson, Bears' Desmond Clark, Panthers' Dante Rosario, and Chiefs’ Leonard Pope. Getting another tight end would probably be No. 3 or 4 on the Giants list.
As far as Boss returning goes: It could happen? But then again who knows?
Another candidacy for what the Giants should do in the free agent market is consider a reunion with former receiver, Plaxico Burress.
The reason I bring up this topic again, is because it was mentioned earlier on www.espn.com/newyork during the Michael Kay radio show.
On the show was Giants’ Owner John Mara. During the show, Mara appeared optimistic when it came to the topic of Osi Umenyiora. Mara believes Giants’ Vice President Jerry Reese and Umenyiora can and hopefully will find a way to settle their current situation with the pro-bowl defensive end.
Around the end of the interview, when asked about the situation of Plaxico Burress, Mara and the Giants have not ruled out a possible reunion and have said, “We’ll look into it.”
The Giants' interest in Burress seems to be at 50/50. But then again, I’m optimistic on the possibility of Burress returning to the Giants.
As far as other notable free agents go, it varies depending on the positions.
www.espn/com/newyork reports Kawika Mitchell is interested in playing for the Giants another season.
Mitchell signed a one-year contract with the Giants back in 2007, the Giants Super Bowl XLL season. The Giants are interested in signing a strong stable linebacker which jeopardizes Chase Blackburn’s and Gerris Wilkinson’s return to Big Blue.
Another free agent who won’t return to the Giants is Barry Cofield. The reason Cofield will not return as a Giant this coming season, is because of rookie Defensive Tackle Marvin Austin.
I don’t see any possible way Cofield returns to the Giants, unless the Giants decide to cut Rocky Bernard, or one of their Defensive Tackles gets injured. Bottom line: As of right now, Barry Cofield is gone.
The return of safeties Michael Johnson and Deon Grant also appears very unlikely at this point. Looking at the Giants’ safeties, the Giants don’t know the condition Chad Jones will be in and if he has fully recovered from his car accident that put him on the non-football injury list last year and brought in Deon Grant.
Grant’s return for the Giants does not seem like an option at this point. Michael Johnson’s future will probably depend on Chad Jones' health. Even then Johnson may not return due to the addition of Tyler Sash. Johnson's and Grant’s return is akin to a coin toss, we don’t know what’s gonna happen.
As far as other Giants free agents go, I would say the only player who may return is Kevin Boothe. Keith Bullock is interesting in starting, so he’s not coming back.
With all the other Linebackers the Giants have, Gerris Wilkinson is also shopping in the free agent market.
So the top unrestricted free agents on the Giants will probably be included in this list (ranking from important to not so)
- Ahmad Bradshaw and Mathius Kiwanuka
- Osi Umenyiora
- A Tight End
- Plaxico Burress or Steve Smith
- A Linebacker
It will be very interesting to see what will happen this week, when the free agent market opens up. What’s gonna happen? Who knows? Whatever happens:
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!