There’s little rest for the weary for men like Giants general manager Jerry Reese.
The architect of the NFL’s reigning champions said via conference call Thursday that he’ll soon be right back to work, trying to find ways of making sure the Giants properly defend their newly-won title. And also in hopes of finding another Victor Cruz type.
While many teams try the free agency route, Reese said he’s more liable to look within his own roster to fill any gaps. Unlike divisional rivals Washington, Dallas and Philadelphia, Reese said when it comes to rounding out a championship roster he’d rather just pluck from his own lineups, rather than pay top dollar for a replacement.
“When you look at personnel and look into the future, you always want to look on your roster first before you go out and look at someone else,” Reese said. “More times than not the guy is already on your squad.”
His best example came last summer when the lockout was lifted and teams were scrambling to fill out their rosters. While teams like the Eagles and Raiders were splurging on Big Blue’s free agents, Reese stayed the course, trusted his scouting department and inquired within. Instead of over-paying for wideout Steve Smith (Eagles) and tight end Kevin Boss (Raiders), Reese shut out the criticism from fans and media alike and stayed convinced that then-unknown talents like Cruz and Jake Ballard would do exactly what the aforementioned defectors did — and even more.
Cruz, who was a scout-team afterthought at this time last year, had a record-setting season for the Giants and at only $426,000 was the league’s best bargain. Ballard, also a scout-teamer last season, more than admirably filled the shoes of Boss and was a surprise favorite of Eli Manning’s early in the season.
Such rags to riches stories are the No. 1 reason why Reese said he doesn’t make hasty decisions when it comes to defectors. And instead of gloating or bellowing an “I told you so” to the football world, Reese said he’s already looking at ways to improve his team through their own means.
“There are some young practice squad guys that we really like and did a lot in helping us with preparation. Hopefully some of those guys will step out of the shadows and fill some voids for us as we move along,” Reese said, adding there’s no free ride for scout-teamers. “They’re on the practice squad for a reason. We don’t have guys on the practice squad just to have them. We have them because we feel they have some redeeming qualities that might help them develop into some players. … There are several guys on the [practice] squad that we feel can develop and compete for jobs next year.”
Big Blue notes
» The Giants had the misfortune of losing two tight ends in Super Bowl XLVI with torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) in Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum. Reese said it was bittersweet to see that but added both should return next season. But if not, they’ll naturally have to find the proper replacements: “Obviously those guys are talented but we’ll have to wait and see how they are after the surgeries and see how quickly they get back. Both guys will likely be on the PUP list [physically unable to perform] at the beginning of next season.”
» Reese said when it comes to replacements, he already has an idea of where to turn: “We talk about Kiwi [linebacker/defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka] being our ‘Joker’ on defense, but [fullback/tight end] Bear Pascoe is our ‘Joker’ on offense. He can do a little bit of everything so he’ll be back and we can team him with another practice squad guy in Chris Hopkins. He’s a big kid (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) that practices hard every day and our coaches like and they think he has potential to compete for a job next season as well. … And we’ll also look at the draft for help, too.”
» Reese added when it comes to guys like Cruz, who takes full advantage of the opportunities, it’s inspiring. He also said it’s not an indictment on his scouting staff because diamonds in the rough happen every year: “Every year there’s a guy that comes out of the shadows on different teams. Sometimes guys just fall through the cracks. You only have seven rounds now so guys like Victor, who has redeeming qualities, might not get drafted. It’s not an exact science. … There are guys like that every year who might not get drafted and there are plenty of guys in the Hall of Fame who didn’t get drafted.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.