The Free Agency period in the Spring of every NFL off season, is another reminder that no matter how successful a team is their work is never done. The New York Giants just won the Super Bowl 21 days ago but there are 23 players on their roster who are free agents, and unrestricted at that. Here are the nominees (sorry it was Oscar night at my house when I wrote this):
1.) CHASE BLACKBURN (Linebacker)
Why: NFL unemployment curtailed his 2011 season or there is a chance he may have wrestled away the starting middle backer job from GREG JONES or JACQUIAN WILLIAMS. Jones and Williams have more ability and upside than Blackburn does, but they are future players and Blackburn is ready now. He was third on the Giants in tackles with 26 (46 overall which includes his five-game regular season) in the playoffs and this was after a twelve week layoff during the season, and being activated just 5 five weeks before the playoffs even started. He received just under $700K in 2011 and did you see how hungry he was when he played? He played every down as if it were his last.
2.) DAVE TOLLEFSON (Defensive Line)
Why: IF OSI UMENYIORA leaves in free agency (expected) Tollefson will be that much more important to the Giants defensive end depth and pass rushing ability. Tollefson may never beat out JUSTIN TUCK or JASON PIERRE-PAUL but he is helpful to the Giants as far as athletic ability, depth, and his pass rushing skills. He makes just under $700K to be an alternate defensive end; he was tied for third (with Tuck) on the team in sacks with 5 during the regular season. In 2012 he should be able to figure more in the Giants plans because they should know what they have in him by now.
3.) JAKE BALLARD (Tight End)
Why: He picked up the slack for KEVIN BOSS at tight end, who left in free agency in 2011 for the Oakland Raiders. Ballard was fourth in receptions (38) and third in yards (604) on the Giants in 2011, but in the playoffs he was underused. Ballard complements the other Giants receivers and he not just a big tight end who just blocks, Ballard has good hands, decent speed, and the ability to find open spots in a defense.
4.) STEVE WEATHERFORD (Punter)
Why: One of the best punters in the game and his punting in Super Bowl XLVI helped the Giants win that game. Neither one of his punts were returned in that game and and 75 percent of his 4 punts were inside the 20 yard line. He commands $700K and that is a bargain for his caliber of punter.
5.) DEON GRANT (Free Safety)
Why: He is an alternate/backup to starter ANTREL ROLLE. Grant can be a solid run and pass defender in a limited role for the Giants. Rolle and Grant are two veteran bookend free safeties who have the size to help versus the run game and just enough athletic ability defend receivers who lurk in their area. Grant is not the player or the athlete he was back in the 2000s decade but he can still play, but he does command just over $900K to be a backup. At this point in his career and where he stands on the free safety depth chart, he may have to take a pay cut or step to another team.
6.) STACY ANDREWS (Offensive Lineman)
Why: Andrews missed seven games and the entire playoffs due to pulmonary embolisms in both of his lungs. If he can get that rectified and cleared up in time for training camp, the Giants may have them a possible challenger to the right tackle job because starter KAREEM MCKENZIE (makes just over $5 million a year) will be entering his 12th year in 2012 and he’s an unrestricted free agent. McKenzie may not be resigned and Andrews will of course face other competition for that right tackle job, but Andrews will be in his 10th year in 2012 and he makes far less cheddar than McKenzie does.