With five key members of their 2010 team becoming unrestricted free agents, and barely any money to work with—ESPN's John Clayton estimated that the Giants were $11.3 million over the salary cap at the start of free agency. The New York Giants faced a tough decision heading into the 2011 offseason. Of its five (key) impending free agents—Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Kevin Boss, Steve Smith and Mathias Kiwanuka—which player(s) should New York attempt to re-sign?
The answer seemed obvious to me.
Both Cofield and Kiwanuka, although talented, were expendable because of the depth the Giants have along the defensive line. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin are the reason for this depth. The players in this order are Bradshaw, Boss and Smith as the players, who I believed, the Giants most needed to re-sign.
Jerry Reese, who has a slightly better idea of how to run a football team, decided to go in somewhat of a different direction.
In addition to re-signing Bradshaw, Reese also worked out a two-year deal with Kiwanuka, bringing the former Boston College defensive end back for his sixth season in New York.
However, despite putting offers on the table for both Boss and Smith—two of Eli Manning's most reliable weapons—the Giants general manager has been unable to agree on a deal with either of them.
Negotiating a contract with Smith isn't as urgent because the four-year wideout will most likely start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. However, with Boss drawing attention around the league mainly from Oakland, the Giants must take action quickly or else they might be without their top tight end heading into 2011.
The Raiders, who are desperately trying to find Zach Miller's replacement at tight end, were impressed by Boss' workout according to Ralph Vacchiano of the blog The Big Blue Screen.
Although the Raiders are over the salary cap by $12 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, if they are that interested in Boss, the Raiders can make enough adjustments to their team salary by either releasing players or restructuring contracts—so that they can afford him.
If the Raiders do indeed sign Boss, then the Giants are in a world of trouble.
Sure, one can argue that Boss' numbers don't look great on paper (35 receptions, 531 yards receiving and six touchdowns in 13 games in '10). It is the little things Boss does, such as holding a block on the edge just long enough to spring Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs. What makes him a great player is catching a key third-down pass to keep the chains moving or making a tough grab over the middle with the game on the line.
Since he entered the league in 2007, Boss has provided Eli Manning with a safety blanket, someone who Manning could trust to find open on third-down and red zone situations.
At 6'6", Boss provides Manning with a big target, who has the size and strength to create separation between him and his defender.
In addition to receiving ability, Boss is a much-improved run blocker. In 2009, Boss finished with a grade of plus 10.2 in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus.
So, while he may not be among the game's elite tight ends, Boss is one of the more complete tight ends in the NFL. Which is something you can't say about either Ben Patrick or Bear Pascoe, whom as of now would be Boss' replacements.
I know, I'm as afraid as you are.
Don't get me wrong; I think Patrick and Pascoe are quality No. 2 tight ends, but that's about it.
Neither Patrick nor Pascoe have the receiving ability to be a team's No. 1 tight end, and in this day in age, it's extremely important to have a tight end that can stretch the field and make plays with his hands.
With that said, outside of re-signing Kevin Boss, the Giants don't have a lot of options—in terms of acquiring a No. 1 tight end—before the start of the season.
This year's free-agent crop is considered weak at tight end, and with top tight ends, such as; Owen Daniels, Zach Miller and Marcedes Lewis all off the board, there is no one left who is capable of being a team's No. 1 tight end.
Yeah, the Giants could always trade for Seattle's John Carlson. But that would likely involve surrendering a draft pick for a tight end that isn't even as talented as Boss.
While one can argue that Carlson is just as good of a receiver as Boss, it's clear that Boss is the much better blocker.
In 2010, Boss finished with a pass blocking efficiency (PBE) of 2.64—the seventh best among TE's— (allowing just five quarterback pressures in 142 pass blocking snaps), while Carlson posted a PBE of 6.76 (allowing 11 pressures in 122 pass blocking snaps), according to Pro Football Focus.
And with the reconstruction of their offensive line, the Giants need someone who can help to protect the quarterback—especially on the left edge.
Here's the bottom line, the Giants need Boss. No questions asked.
As a result, Reese needs to bump up the offer just a little bit. The offer doesn't have to be anything ridiculous, it just has to be similar to what Oakland is offering, because unless the Raiders offer Boss significantly more money than the Giants do, Boss will come back to New York because he told the New York Daily News that returning to New York was his No. 1 priority.