Besides the looming – and sure to be contentious – Collective Bargaining Agreement dealings, the Giants will have their own problems to sort through, namely which pending free agents to re-sign and who to let go.
Co-owners Steve Tisch and John Mara, as well as general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin, will have to make some delicate decisions in the months to come. But according to Reese, all the contractual dealings have to take a backseat to the CBA negotiations because teams are still in the dark when it comes to the rules of engaging with pending free agents.
“It’s a hurry up and wait deal. We’ve got to see where we are and we’re not really sure what we’re dealing with right now,” Reese said when asked if he’d be willing to re-sign or sign free agents despite the CBA cloud. “I think when the CBA is over I think that it’s possible [signing players] but I don’t think anybody is going to jump right in and not know what they’re working with right away. We’re not sure what the rules are right now.”
Once the CBA drama finally settles, the Giants will look to improve upon a 10-win team that didn’t qualify for the post-season. Such an anomaly is one reason why Coughlin was kept onboard to at least finish out his contract [he has one year remaining on his current deal]. Tisch, for one, said knee-jerk reactions following such a weird season isn’t what the Giants do.
“My thoughts on this season were that we came out of this season 10-6 and in many ways a better team than we’ve been the last few seasons,” Tisch said. “I’m proud of the players, proud of the job that Tom Coughlin and his coaches have done…we’re a great organization and I think we’re really a team that embraces the word ‘team’ and the experience of team. I’m very, very proud of the New York Giants [and] I’m looking forward to 2011.”
Tisch praised a coaching staff that miraculously kept this ailing team together under a season of duress. Mounting injuries and shuffling weekly lineups were two of the biggest factors why the Giants played uneven at times. But it’s a credit to coaches like offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and offensive and defensive coordinators Kevin Gilbride and Perry Fewell, respectively, that their units played inspired and together. Such success and coaching acumen could also tear apart a staff, however, as both Gilbride and Fewell have garnered interest by both NCAA and NFL teams.
Reese said although he’d hate to see quality coaches go, they’d never hold back a coach from wanting to pursue head coaching gigs.
“We don’t want to hold anybody back,” Reese said. “If guys get an opportunity to move on to a better opportunity, we’re happy for them…but we like our coaching staff right now.”
The staff may remain intact but the roster will certainly see some tweaking as there are at least 21 free agents on the horizon. Reese said despite the CBA unrest, he’s already laid out a contingency plan. It’s just up to league to decide when it’s OK to act.
“The CBA is what it is. We’re hopeful things are going to be resolved. We have plans [that] if there is a strike or a lockout, we’ll be ready either way,” Reese said. “I talked to all of the potential UFAs [unrestricted free agents] on [Monday] morning and everybody has got a good attitude about it. We’ll see after we know what the new agreement is and then we’ll move forward and see who to sign and who not to sign…obviously there will be changes, like every year, so we’ll move forward and see what happens.”
Of the free agents, perhaps no three are as important as Ahmad Bradshaw, Steve Smith, and the seemingly forgotten Mathias Kiwanuka. Bradshaw, who enjoyed a career season with 1,235 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, is set for a hefty pay raise. Smith, a 2009 Pro Bowler, was hampered by injuries beginning in Week 10 and finished with 48 catches for 529 yard and three touchdowns. The versatile Kiwanuka, who has played defensive end, defensive tackle, and even some linebacker, is a different challenge. Kiwanuka only played three games this year before a neck injury sidelined him for the season. But during those first three weeks, Kiwi was a force, as he racked up three sacks.
Reese admitted the Kiwi situation may be the hardest to deal with. His quandary seems to be to either let such a skilled and beloved player walk for free or re-sign him and hope his neck properly heals.
“Kiwi has a significant neck issue and right now he’s just trying to see if he can resolve it with rest. Hopefully that’ll be the case and we’ll see more of what kind of contract we can offer him,” said Reese, who let go of revered linebacker Antonio Pierce last February following his own neck injury, despite Pierce having one year remaining on his deal. “Do we offer Kiwi a one-year deal so that he can re-establish his value or do we go in a different direction? We’ll see.”
However the Giants handle the contracts of their own players, management assured there won’t be drastic changes to a roster that is as talented as any in the NFL.
“There are going to be changes, for sure,” Reese reiterated. “I don’t know that we have to do a lot of wholesale changes but there definitely will be changes.”
Mara, who along with Tisch will have the final say on things, agreed with his general manager.
“I think you just tweak,” he said. “I don’t think we’re in a situation where you need to blow anything up. Obviously there are improvements that need to be made. Somebody once said you are what your record says you are and we’re 10-6. We want to be better than that next year.”