NFL Free Agency: With Seubert and O'Hara Gone, 2 OL the Giants Should Chase
From September 9, 2007 to October 25, 2009, the New York Giants recorded 28 regular season wins, two playoff appearances, one NFC regular season crown and one Super Bowl championship (Super Bowl XLII).
And they did it all with the exact same offensive line.
For 38 consecutive regular season games—an NFL record—New York started David Diehl at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Shaun O'Hara at center, Chris Snee at right guard and Kareem McKenzie at right tackle.
Despite having never played alongside one another prior to the 2007 season, the five members of the offensive line quickly developed chemistry and emerged as one of the best offensive lines in football.
Not only was that evident in the offensive line rankings—Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants offensive line as the sixth best in 2009—but it was clear based on the Giants' run productivity.
In two seasons, from 2007 to 2008, the Giants combined to rush for 4,666 yards—the second-most in the NFL behind the Vikings (4,972)—with an average of 4.8 yards per carry—also the second-most behind the Vikings (4.9).
Additionally, in 2008, New York's offensive line paved the way for Brandon Jacobs (1,089) and Derrick Ward (1,025), who became just the fifth pair of teammates in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the same season.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart accomplished this feat in 2009 as the sixth pair to do this.
Needless to say, the talent and cohesion of the Giants' offensive line was one of the main reasons for New York's success from 2007 to 2009.
Unfortunately, the injury bug hit Big Blue's offensive line hard in 2010 (O'Hara missed 10 games due to ankle and foot injuries, Diehl missed four games due to a partially torn hamstring and Seubert suffered a dislocated knee injury in the Giants' final game of the 2010 season).
The once-impeccable offensive line started to show its age.
That's why—as much as I hate to say it—it wasn't surprising to see New York release O'Hara (34) and Seubert (32), whom are coming off serious injuries (Seubert's being much more serious) Tuesday, in an effort to re-tool its offensive line and cut down on its team salary.
However, with O'Hara and Seubert gone, and Shawn Andrews on his way out the door, one has to wonder whom the Giants are planning to start up front next season.
They signed David Baas, a 29-year-old offensive lineman who has started at both guard and center for the San Francisco 49ers. However, even with the addition of Baas, there are still holes along New York's offensive line.
Here's a look at what the Giants' starting offensive line would look like if the season started today.
LT—William Beatty (He has started in six games in his two-year career, and so far, hasn't shown any signs of improvement)
LG—David Diehl (The Giants desperately need to move Diehl from left tackle. He simply can't keep up with quick pass rushers and is much more suited to play at guard)
RG—Chris Snee (Still an elite player)
RT—Kareem McKenzie (McKenzie enjoyed one of his better seasons as a Giant last season, however, at 32 years old, the Giants can't expect McKenzie to maintain his high level of play for much longer)
Here's my problem with this lineup: I'm not completely sold on Beatty.
I think he is more suited to serve as a backup rather than a starting left tackle. Sure, he's young, but in the limited action he has seen, the two-year pro has largely underwhelmed.
As a result, the Giants should look to add an offensive tackle in free agency to protect Eli Manning's blind side.
Here are two potential candidates.
1. Jared Gaither, OT (Baltimore Ravens)
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Jared Gaither can flat out play.
No one doubts that.
The problem with Gaither is his inability to stay on the field.
At just 25 years old, Gaither has already suffered numerous injuries, including a neck-and-upper-back injury that forced him to sit out the entire 2010 season.
Questions about his durability may prevent some teams from pursuing him.
However, Drew Rosenhaus, Gaither's agent, recently claimed that Gaither has fully recovered from the back injury that cost him all of last season.
If that is the case, Gaither surely has the talent to reclaim his spot among the game's elite left tackles.
Here is just a sample of what Gaither accomplished from 2008 to 2010:
Of the 1,006 snaps Gaither pass-blocked on, he allowed just 39 total pressures on the quarterback and finished with a pass-blocking efficiency rate of 3.06—the third best among tackles from 2008 to 2010, according to Pro Football Focus.
His bidding price is probably a little bit high, but the Giants would be crazy not to pursue a talent like Gaither.
2. Tyson Clabo, OT (Atlanta Falcons)
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However, no deal has been made yet, and—as we all know—a player can change his mind very quickly if presented with a nice offer.
Clabo, a 2010 Pro Bowl selection, isn't nearly as talented Jared Gaither.
However, the 29-year-old tackle is a durable player (he has started in Atlanta's previous 61 games) who is improving in pass protection, and is a solid run-blocker.
Clabo, whom Pro Football Focus rated as the 11th-best tackle in 2010 with a grade of 10.8, has played only at right tackle for the Falcons.
However, he has the athleticism and ability to start at left tackle for the Giants.
The addition of Clabo would immediately bolster the left side of the Giants line and would allow David Diehl to move to left guard, a position that he excelled at in the early stages of his career.