It would be easy to jump on the Giants for failing to make a splashy move while their close rivals scoop up every free agent on the market, but it wouldn’t be smart.
First off, it is very rare that a team goes on this kind of offseason splurge and wins a championship. The only times I can remember a team bringing in this many big names in one offseason, and it working out well, were the 2004 Eagles and the 2007 Patriots. Both teams did very well, but failed to win the SuperBowl that year, or any year after it for that matter. Most teams, however, end up the way the Redskin, Cowboys and Raiders have with these attempts. (perhaps another indication of a supposed sports god?) Usually there is a combination of overconfidence, poor chemistry on the field, and sometimes a divided locker room. This season, those issues seem to be exacerbated with such little time to prepare before the start of the season. Think back to all the interviews during the lockout. All players, coaches, and people in the media kept saying, is the teams with the least amount of changes are set up the best to do well this season.
On the other hand the Giants have tried their best to re-sign their own players, and make a few small depth moves in the process. While none of these moves can be considered “splashy,” they each helped the Giants inch closer to their goal of a SuperBowl title.
Releasing Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews was a tough blow for the veterans on the team. O’Hara and Seubert have long been stalwarts on the offensive line and in the locker room. Their injuries and age, however, made it impossible for the Giants to keep them. In comes David Baas and Stacy Andrews. Neither one of those players have made a Pro Bowl yet, but both are more than adequate to fill their designated roles. Baas instantly upgrades the offensive line, as O’Hara, Seubert and Adam Koets (the three players who took snaps at center last season) all were coming into training camp with lingering injury problems. Baas will not only be a healthy option for the Giants, but he is coming off a pretty successful season for the 49ers. In his first season at center Baas had some growing pains, but ultimately was viewed as one of the top 10 players at his position. He was a player the 49ers were hoping to get back, and a player that will hopefully improve and play well for the Giants. Stacy Andrews has not had as big of an impact with his former teams, but is still a reliable offensive tackle in this league, and offers a nice security blanket for a team going into the season with an unproven starter (Will Beatty) and an aging veteran (Kareem McKenzie).
Other notable transactions include the signings of tight end Ben Patrick, defensive tackle Gabe Watson, quarterback David Carr, punter Steve Weatherford, and running back Andre Brown.
In my opinion, Patrick could be one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. I have been high on this guy for a while now, as I hoped the Giant would draft him when he originally entered the league. He has been used mostly as a blocker for Arizona, but Coughlin raved about his hands in his workout. He has a big body and has proven he can block in this league, something no Giants starter outside (including?) Boss has proven, and he is a better receiver than most realize. With the loss of Boss to the Raiders, it seems the Giants are going to have to rely on him as their primary tight end, unless Beckum shows he can handle the role in camp.
Watson is another “high reward” type player. While I’m not as high on him as I am Patrick, I was also in favor of drafting him when he came out. The guy was a great college player with a quick burst, and strong body. Problem is he hasn’t really shown it in his limited action in the NFL. The big concern about him coming out of college was his work ethic. It was enough of a concern that he fell to the fourth round despite having first round talent. There are a few reasons why this signing could work out for the Giants. First off, he played the nose tackle position for the Cardinals in their 3-4 set. As Warren Sapp can attest to, this is not a fun position for penetrating tackles. Perhaps a return to a 4-3 defense can help him find his footing again. Secondly, this guy is on a one year minimum salary deal. Money has a funny way of motivating people and if Watson ever wants to see a big payday he better start playing well. (admittedly he should have realized this when he dropped to the fourth round. Second times the charm?)
Carr does not have high upside, but he played very nicely as the Giants back-up. Nicely enough that the 49ers thought he might have the potential to be a starting quarterback again. (that was until he actually showed up in camp) With Sage Rosenfels and Carr on the roster heading into training camp, you can rest assured that the Giants will have at least a serviceable back-up if anything were to happen to Manning. (KNOCK ON WOOD!)
Last season the Giants’ two biggest concerns were their turnovers and special teams. Matt Dodge has a lot of talent, but struggled his rookie year. The Giants could have pinned their hopes to him again this season, but realized the importance of the position and made a move to ensure steadier production. In comes Steve Weatherford, a punter who had a very successful season and a guy who won’t smack line drives when we desperately need the field position. An under the radar signing sure, but an important one nonetheless.
Finally, there is Brown. Like Carr, Brown is a player who has worn royal blue before, as he was originally drafted by the Giants in the 4th round. He was quick and a good receiver out of the backfield, what seemed like a nice replacement for Ward. Unfortunately, he ruptured his Achilles tendon and was released the following season. He bounced around quite a bit, but now he is back. If he can prove he is healthy, he might be able to fulfill the promise he showed giving the Giants a nice security blanket in case of an injury to Jacobs or Bradshaw. Or we can flashback to 2008 and try another three-headed monster. (would that make Brown wind?)
None of these moves are real splashy, but they help to bring depth and stability to an already stacked roster. If the Giants can re-sign their remaining free agent (Steve Smith) the Giants should be in good position to make the playoffs, even though the Eagles are in their division.
Honestly the most important thing for the Giants is going to be the maturation of their young talented players. I’ll touch on that in another post sometime soon.