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2011 New York Giants Free Agent Priorities

With NFL free agency set to begin, I’m going to round out the New York football teams’ free agent priorities by highlighting the New York Giants (sorry Buffalo fans, you’ll get what’s due in the near future…maybe). The Giants are one of seven teams currently above the projected $120 million salary cap in effect this season. This makes it even more crucial for them to re-sign their own free agents and avoid getting into a bidding war with other “cap friendly” teams like the Cincinnati Bengals who have close to $40 million to spend. The Giants are looking to get back into the playoff picture after missing out last season as they were unable to capitalize on yet another strong start on their way to a 10-6 record. The G-Men have some major free agents that absolutely need to be re-signed, but it’s going to take some creative accounting by General Manager Jerry Reese in order to fill their voids. With all that being said, here’s my top five Giants free agent priorities:

1. Ahmad Bradshaw – I think Bradshaw has to be number one on the Giants to-do list. He’s been a very productive back for the G-Men and has shown he can shoulder the load when needed. Re-signing Bradshaw is all the more important mainly because I can’t see the Giants signing DeAngelo Williams or Cedric Benson if they miss out on Ahmad. Williams and Benson are the only other elite running backs on the market and both will be asking for too much. Reggie Bush is not a feature back and is more of a luxury item to a team, especially in a capped year. Ronnie Brown has been plagued with injuries ever since coming into the league and he’s already 29-years old, a grandpa in terms of the wear and tear a running back receives on a daily basis. Finally, Brown’s former teammate Ricky Williams is far from his days of being a feature back and wouldn’t be a good fit alongside Jacobs, as the two are essentially the same type of runner.

With all that being said, I think retaining Bradshaw is a must for Big Blue. I understand he’s battled nagging ankle injuries in his brief career, and he absolutely has to cut down on the fumbles, but he’s the perfect complement to the bruising Jacobs. Bradshaw has a great combination of speed, strength, and elusiveness and the Giants will be much better served if he gets 20-plus carries while Jacobs receives 12-15 than they would be if it was the other way around. 

2. Steve Smith – Smith is coming off serious micro-fracture surgery on his knee which bodes well for the Giants because he will more than likely won’t be asking for a ton of money on the open market. Even with the reconstructed knee I still believe Smith is a major priority for the Giants. Smith showed in 2009 that he is a top-tier wide-receiver, ending the year with over 100 receptions, more than 1,200 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns on his way to the Pro Bowl. He’s Eli’s safety blanket on virtually every pass play and especially on third-downs. Smith has exceptional hands as well, showing time and time again that if the ball is anywhere in his vicinity he’s going to catch it. A solid and reliable possession receiver like Smith coupled with an athletic freak in Nicks and a deep threat in Manningham gives the G-Men a very dangerous receiving core and thus opens up the running game even more.

3. Mathias Kiwanuka – Much like Steve Smith, Mathias Kiwanuka is also coming off season-ending surgery. Kiwanuka missed all but three games last season due to neck surgery. The versatile defensive end/linebacker has become an increasingly important commodity to the Giants lately amidst all the uncertainty and turmoil surrounding the disgruntled Osi Umenyiora. I believe the only way the Giants trade Osi is if they first re-sign Kiwanuka.

4. Kevin Boss – The Giants don’t use their tight-ends as much in the passing game as other teams but that doesn’t mean their ready to just let Boss walk away. Boss is a big, physical tight-end who helps out immensely in the running game with his above average blocking capabilities. Boss isn’t one of the go-to receivers in the passing game but when he does get the ball thrown his way it’s usually for a big play as he’s adept at shrugging off potential tacklers and revying up the crowd. With Bear Pascoe also being a free agent and Travis Beckum’s inability to block on a consistent basis, re-signing Boss is definitely atop the Giants wish list. 

5. Barry Cofield – The Giants are most at risk of losing the 27-year old 5-year starter at defensive tackle in free agency. Cofield has been as solid as they come in the middle for what has been one of the best defensive lines in football. The young rising star plays a big role in clogging up the middle as well as pushing the pocket, but with Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, and 2011 second round pick Marvin Austin already in place and Cofield’s statements about a big pay-day it looks as if he and the Giants will have to part ways. Too bad, as Cofield is one of my favorite Giants and is responsible for one of the greatest sack celebrations in NFL history (see video here: http://youtu.be/qhixXslAf4o).

Others to Consider – Deon Grant, Chase Blackburn, Domenik Hixon, Gerris Wilkinson, and my boy Dave Tollefson

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