Giants: Ahmad Bradshaw leads important signings
Once the lockout is finally settled, the New York Giants will be pressed into immediate action to fill in roster gaps and figure out whom to sign and re-sign.
Their situation is not unlike any of the other 31 franchises, but when you play in the largest market in the league, have a won a Super Bowl as recently as four seasons ago, and have a lame-duck head coach under fire, any type of shakeup will garner an inordinate amount of attention.
Reports out of the league office say once the lockout is lifted, teams will have a 72-hour window to re-sign their own free agents, starting July 25. Three days later, most training camps figure to begin opening, which means time is of the essence. General Manager Jerry Reese will have to squeeze in what is usually five months of off-season work into roughly a week.
One of New York’s most pressing needs is to lock up star running back Ahmad Bradshaw. The shifty back earned $550,000 in the final year of his contract last season but is now in line for a hefty raise after totaling 1,500 yards from scrimmage – despite sharing the load. How fast and deep New York digs in its pockets will be a key factor in retaining Bradshaw’s services.
Current injuries will also play a huge role in deciding who returns. Key cogs like guard Rich Seubert [knee] and defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka [neck] haven’t been able to rehab with team doctors and trainers due to the lockout. This will no doubt set them back some. If neither is ready for training camp – or worse, the season opener – they could both be cap casualties. Seubert has just now begun jogging but is nowhere near game shape. If his contract is not slashed he could start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform [PUP] list and miss the first six weeks. Kiwi is another story because depending on the source, he’s either “on track” [his words] or still “iffy” [a team source’s words].
Even if both veterans return, it’s still a safe bet that both sides of the ball will have an infusion of talent – if only for precaution and competition’s sake.
Notable G-Men Free Agents
RB Ahmad Bradshaw – Brandon Jacobs is the only running back under contract, so re-signing Bradshaw is a must. The usually quiet Bradshaw perked up some ears lately in an interview with Dolphins radio when he said he’s “75% sure” he’ll return to the Giants but a minute later said he could see himself taking his talents to South Beach. It’s up in the air but the thought is he’s a goner – especially when he just hired Miami-based Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Bradshaw and Jacobs have great chemistry and a tight friendship but sole possession of the Dolphins’ running back position and money may trump all.
TE Kevin Boss – Not one of the household names for tight ends but know The Boss Man led all tights ends with plays over 20 yards last season. He loves it here and he’s a fave of the front office due to his unselfish play and gutsy penchant for going over the middle. Safe to say he’ll re-sign.
WR Steve Smith – Teamed with Hakeem Nicks, Smith is either option 1 or 1A for Eli Manning. It’s difficult to think Smith would go elsewhere but if he does leave this is a big year for big-name wideouts and you can bet some of the top names will be overpaid, meaning Smith could take the money and run. And if the Giants are stuck in a bidding war, it’s bye-bye Smith. But with the amount of chemistry he’s forged with Manning, it’s hard to see him jettisoning the only team he’s known.
OL Kevin Boothe – Believe it or not but this is a must re-sign. Boothe can play either tackle slots and play some guard in a pinch. And with Seubert doubtful, Shawn Andrews looming as a cap casualty, and the rest of the tackles [Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl] getting long in the tooth, it’s safe to say the G-Men will do whatever they have to do to sign the very productive Boothe.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka – His neck injury was serious enough to shelve him after only one month of play. But before he was put on injured reserve, Kiwi — the most versatile defender on the team — was leading the team in sacks. He may re-sign at a low price because of the lack of suitors but neck injuries are hard to gauge. If another team leaps in with a halfway decent deal last season’s abbreviated campaign could be the last for Kiwi on Big Blue.
DT Barry Cofield – Should be a must-sign, too, but unlike Boothe’s predicament, Cofield is a part of the deepest unit in all of football. No team’s unit has as much depth as the Giants’ D-Line. Cofield is a very solid player but he’ll be sought after heavily in free agency and New York can let him walk because they have at least six guys who can rotate along the defensive tackle position.
S Deon Grant – Had a great resurgence last season in his first season in New York, as he teamed with Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle to form one of the best safety trios in the league. But money and opportunity will spring up elsewhere and look for Grant to go that route and finally not have to share the secondary spotlight.
Middle Linebacker — A sore spot all last season. No one really stepped up and filled the void left by Antonio Pierce’s release. Jonathan Goff was the usual starter but never really took hold of it. Look for the G-Men to go browsing for one in free agency.
Notables: Stephen Tulloch [Titans]; Ben Leber [Vikings]; Barrett Ruud [Buccaneers]; Paul Posluszny [Bills];
Offensive Line – Of the regular starters, Chris Snee was the youngest at 28 years old. It’s time for the G-Men to make a youth movement and add some depth along their aging line. They already have some nice chips ready to take on a larger role in William Beatty , Adam Koets , Mitch Petrus , and Boothe  but stockpiling O-Line talent is always a need.
Notables: Ryan Harris [Broncos]; Tyson Clabo [Falcons]; Jared Gaither [Ravens]; Jammal Brown [Redskins];
Running Back – Providing Bradshaw expectantly leaves, the running back market is flooded with names of past glory and future hopefuls. Jacobs and Bradshaw formed a nice 1-2 punch last season but if the Dolphins – who will not re-sign either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams – overpay for Bradshaw, he’s gone.
Notables: Brown and Williams [Dolphins]; DeAngelo Williams [Panthers]; Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles [Chargers]; Le’Ron McClain [Ravens]; Tim Hightower [Cardinals]; Joseph Addai [Colts].
Receivers – There are some big names on the free-agent market but the Giants have never been known to shell out big cash for the diva position. But if the Giants can’t lure back Smith, they’ll have to find another receiver to complement Nicks – and there really aren’t any options on their own roster.
Notables: Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards [Jets]; Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd [Chargers]; Sidney Rice [Vikings]; Mike Sims-Walker [Jaguars]; Terrell Owens [Bengals]; Randy Moss [Titans]; James Jones [Packers]; Steve Breaston [Cardinals].
Cornerbacks – Nnamdi Asomugha is the cream of the crop for all free agents but he’s not coming here. Sorry, Giant fans, but he’s a better fit for that other New Meadowlands tenant. But the perennial All-Pro isn’t the only corner that could be an upgrade for Big Blue, as there are some nice Plan B options on the market.
Notables: Carlos Rogers [Redskins]; Antonio Cromartie [Jets]; Jonathan Joseph [Bengals]; Brent Grimes [Falcons]; Stanford Routt [Raiders]; Richard Marshall [Panthers].