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Vacchiano: Giants Free Agency Plans


jranieli
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http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/giants/20...an-bargain.html

 

Giants' free-agent plan: Bargain shopping

 

Doesn’t March, 2005 seem like a long, long time ago? That’s the last time the Giants were truly big players in the free agent market. That month they signed linebacker Antonio Pierce, tackle Kareem McKenzie and receiver Plaxico Burress — three extremely key ingredients in what became a championship team.

 

Since then, their dips into the free-agent pool have always been something less than cannonballs. They’ve ignored the big names and high prices and looked to the second tier for bargains like linebackers Kawika Mitchell and Danny Clark. Their money has gone into keeping their own players and building their core from inside.

 

And that’s exactly what I expect will happen this time, too.

 

It’s a smart philosophy and the right philosophy in what has become a market gone mad. Teams are wise to the crazy spending, so they’re locking up the best players — either with franchise tags or long-term contracts. What’s left is a second tier of players who want first-tier money. As a result, you have guys like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a valuable possession receiver despite the fact he’s about to be 32, who would be a nice addition to any team. But since he’s by far the best available receiver on the free-agent market he could command a salary of $9 million (or more) per year.

 

There’s just no way he’s worth that. And even if you want to argue he’s worth it right now, there’s no way he will be in two years when he’s 34.

 

“It would be great to get all the big guys, but it’s not reality,” Giants GM Jerry Reese told The Blue Screen yesterday. “A lot of the big guys were franchised, so now you have 32 teams shopping for a couple of big guys and it drives the cost up. We try to be smart with our money here. But we won’t shy away.”

 

It’s not about shying away. The Giants would spend if the value was there. There is simply better value in the second tier when good, but not great players can be had at reasonable salaries. The Giants have locked up the best players on their team — including two recent additions to the long-term club in CB Corey Webster and RB Brandon Jacobs. They were 11-1 at one point with the team they have, and feel they need tinkering and role players more than they need major additions.

 

So don’t expect any big, splashy signings when the clock strikes midnight tonight (12:01 a.m. on Friday, to be exact). Have patience and look beyond the big names. That’s where the Giants will be looking to fill their biggest needs.

 

RECEIVER

 

How badly do they need one: They‘re not desperate, even though they don’t know if they’ll ever get Plaxico Burress back and they’ve already said their good-byes to Amani Toomer. That leaves the very youthful group of Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham and Sinorice Moss. Is there a No. 1 in there? Maybe. But nobody knows for sure.

 

The dream: T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Who wouldn’t want a guy who averaged 98 catches, 1,042 yards and 8 touchdowns the last three years? But at $9 million-plus per year? That price would have to come way down.

 

Names to actually watch: There are possible bargains to be had, such as Reggie Williams, Bryant Johnson and Nate Washington. I just don’t get the sense that the Giants will be active bidders for anyone at this position. They seem to have bigger priorities. … Still, how about a flier on the underachieving (but 6-4) Michael Clayton? A former 1,000-yard receiver with a theoretical upside.

 

SAFETY

 

How badly do they need one: Unless they plan on going with only two (Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson), yeah, they need one pretty badly.

 

The dream: Brian Dawkins. OK, I don’t know that this is their dream. I suspect if Steve Spagnuolo were still the defensive coordinator he’d be drooling at this thought. All indications are Dawkins will be back in Philly. But signing a veteran as good as he is and stealing a defensive leader from a division rival? Pretty tempting.

 

Names to actually watch: Sean Jones might end up being too pricey, but he’s a heck of a run-stuffer. I had heard Yeremiah Bell’s name mentioned, but it sounds like he’s going back to the Dolphins. A Gibril Wilson return was unlikely, and last night he signed with the Dolphins. Maybe that will keep Bell on the market? The Giants’ best option might turn out to be … James Butler? Don’t count him out. And I wouldn’t rule out a veteran, Sammy Knight-type signing. Maybe Corey Chavous has a year left in his tank?

 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

 

How badly do they need one: That depends on whom you ask and whom you trust. They can get by with Danny Clark on the strong side and they think Bryan Kehl has promise on the weak side. There are some in the organization, though, who’d like a big impact player here.

 

The dream: Karlos Dansby. They might have made a run at him if the Cardinals hadn’t franchised him.

 

Names to actually watch: Bart Scott’s price will almost certainly be too high. They could be players for Michael Boley, as I’ve read in a few places, but most of the better players in this free-agent group are older or have injury issues — two things the Giants want to avoid. And I’ve heard they absolutely love the linebackers in the upcoming draft — particularly the USC trio (Ray Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Mathews, not necessarily in that order). The draft might end up being the better way to go.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

 

How badly do they need one: They could use depth at defensive tackle … and end, too? Don’t be shocked. You’ve all heard the phrase “You can never have enough pass rushers”, right?

 

The dream: Albert Haynesworth … but keep dreaming. I know there was a report that the Giants are in the mix for his services, but he apparently wants a $100 million deal. That’s not happening here.

 

Names to actually watch: They’ve kicked the tires on Rocky Bernard before, but I can’t see them getting involved with anyone with legal issues (a domestic violence arrest last April). John Thornton once had their attention and he’d be great for depth, but he’s already a 10-year vet. Believe it or not, I’ve heard they have an interest in DE Antonio Smith. Why? They did like having four DEs to rush in passing situation two years ago. Hard to believe he’ll stay in their price range, though, or come to a place where he’d be the fourth end.

 

OTHER AREAS TO WATCH

 

Running back: I’m not buying this as a big area of need, but could they add some veteran, Reuben Droughns-like insurance? Absolutely. Remember, they were hot for Dominic Rhodes two years ago

 

Tight end: Forget Tony Gonzalez. You want an inexpensive, good blocking tight end who would be great in the locker room? Bring back Dan Campbell, who just happens to be free.

 

***

 

• For much, much more on free agency, tune in to Sirius NFL Radio tonight, when I host Late Hits from 8-11 p.m. and we count down the final hours until the free-agent market opens. Also, make sure you check The Blue Screen all day long on Friday. I don’t expect much to happen with the Giants, but once the day gets going I’ll keep you updated on every rumor, murmur, report, fact, whisper, and probably even every free-agent-related thought I have throughout the day.

 

• The NFL salary cap officially increased to $127 million, according to various reports. As I’ve told you before, available cap space is a bit of a fluid number, but I believe the Giants sit somewhere around $15 million under. They can always create more room with some creative restructuring or re-doing Eli Manning’s contract. And remember, they need to save money for draft picks and other in-season emergencies, too. They won’t use more than $8-10 million of that space, if they even use that much.

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Well Jerry Reese wasn't running the ship when the G decided to draft Eli, so perhaps it's not in his field of vision that Eli is not a spot thrower and he needs great receivers or open receivers to make plays. leave him without a real #1 and we are in for a troubling year; our boy will be exposed like no other.

 

Look at what Donovan has to do to compensate...all that running around and improvising, not Eli's strong suit.

 

I'm worried about Jerry's ability to manage the cap at the expense of everything else we've bought in the past few years. That WR minus Toomer did precisely not shit against the Beagles and so I think we need to do something impressive in our WR core...I'm prepared to be disappointed.

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Well Jerry Reese wasn't running the ship when the G decided to draft Eli, so perhaps it's not in his field of vision that Eli is not a spot thrower and he needs great receivers or open receivers to make plays. leave him without a real #1 and we are in for a troubling year; our boy will be exposed like no other.

 

Look at what Donovan has to do to compensate...all that running around and improvising, not Eli's strong suit.

 

I'm worried about Jerry's ability to manage the cap at the expense of everything else we've bought in the past few years. That WR minus Toomer did precisely not shit against the Beagles and so I think we need to do something impressive in our WR core...I'm prepared to be disappointed.

 

Well what are you expecting? There are zero FA WR out there who can come in and be our number one guy. Unless Reese does something drastic i.e. trade away picks for maybe Crabtree or something like that I dont see us trading for someone.

 

Smith is easily Toomers replacement and despite people saying "he's to slow blah blah blah" he can get behind the D and is going to be our number two WR for years to come. Maybe we pick up some late round WR for depth but like I've said the more I think about it the more it makes sense to try and get Britt or whoever with our 1st round pick.

 

Besides you never know what might happen with Plax, I think he will be back personally so this whole WR thing is moot if he does.

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