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Buying isn't solution




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March 1, 2007

The remodeling of the Giants begins in earnest tonight. Yes, new general manager Jerry Reese took a step in that direction by cutting tackle Luke Petitgout on Feb. 12, but the 12:01 start of free agency signals a chance for Reese to add players and chart a new course for the franchise.


That's not an overstatement. The Giants have holes at linebacker, cornerback, offensive line and likely kicker, plus a huge void with Tiki Barber retired. Michael Strahan, 35, and Amani Toomer, 32, are nearing the end of their careers, too, leaving the team searching for new cornerstones.


"It will definitely be an adjustment not having Tiki on the field or in the locker room. I don't think you replace someone like that," team president John Mara said. "But you don't fill all your holes in free agency. It still comes down to drafting well and developing well. You can't rely on free agency to fix all your problems."

Especially when the crop of free agents is rather thin, as it is this year, and teams are flush with salary-cap room. The Giants are roughly $20 million under the $108-million cap, but that places them only in the middle of the cap-room pack. Top-tier free agents, such as Bills cornerback Nate Clements and Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas, will command double-digit signing bonuses beyond what the Giants may be willing to spend.


At running back, Reese already has kicked the tires on a few players who are available in trades, reportedly offering the Bills a fourth-round pick for Willis McGahee and inquiring about the Bears' Thomas Jones. Among unrestricted free agents, the Colts' Dominic Rhodes, the Packers' Ahman Green and the Ravens' Musa Smith will be available.


But Brandon Jacobs said the Giants don't need to look anywhere.


"I'm going to be the premier back in this offense," Jacobs said Monday, the day before his wife, Kim, gave birth to their first child, Brayden. "It might seem cocky, or conceited, to say that, but to me it's just confidence. They can go out and get whoever they want, sign whoever they want. I'm going to be the premier back in this offense."


Jacobs has his bosses' backing. Reese said last week that Jacobs would "carry the max load for us," about 20 carries a game. He's looking for a veteran to carry 10 to 15 times a game and provide a change of pace.


"Every time we've given him a chance, he's been successful," Mara said. "He's a confident guy and has a lot of pride in what he does. I think, as do the coaches, that in this day and age you need a two-back rotation."


Rhodes could fit in, but a recent DUI arrest could change the way teams view him. And Green may want starter's money.


Mara said shrewd teams can often find second-tier free agents to fill needs. Eagles cornerback Roderick Hood and Colts linebacker Cato June might fit that billing.


Cardinals tackle Leonard Davis will command a big payday and the Giants might be willing, especially if they lose center Shaun O'Hara. He isn't pleased with their last offer (six years, roughly $3.5 million per) and would get a big raise if he hits the open market. Jay Feely isn't likely to look back once the offers come in for one of the few proven kickers available.


Mara noted he's feeling Ernie Accorsi's absence at this time of year but said things are changing. Mara values loyalty above almost all else, so it was hard to stomach letting Petitgout go. But the move confirmed his decision to hire Reese.


"He's not afraid to make the tough decision when it's warranted," Mara said. "He was very persuasive when it came to that move."

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