By Ted Carlson, Executive Editor Giants Offseason Needs Our team-by-team look at offseason needs shifts to the Big Apple, where the Giants have already been very busy. Two of the franchise's cornerstones retired, and Tom Coughlin has one more year to prove his worth.
Areas of Need: As noted, the Giants haven't wasted much time this January. General manager Ernie Accorsi retired after serving since the beginning of the 1998 season, and Jerry Reese took his place. Reese officially wears both the senior vice president and general manager tags, and he is the third African American to in NFL history to hold that second title.
Ownership added a year to Coughlin's contract, which basically means the head coach will need to have a much better 2007 to keep his job. An altered coaching staff will hopefully help. Kevin Gilbride was officially named offensive coordinator, Tim Spagnuolo replaced Tim Lewis as defensive coordinator, and Chris Palmer moved from Dallas to be the new quarterbacks coach.
On offense, the Giants will focus on running back and wide receiver. Tiki Barber retired, and the club wants someone to split duties with (or at least help out) Brandon Jacobs. Free agent-to-be Ahman Green (Packers) and restricted free agent-to-be Michael Turner (Chargers) are two names floating about in the local newspapers. The offense badly missed Amani Toomer after he tore his ACL in November, and rookie Sinorice Moss spent too much time in the trainer's room to be counted on heavily in 2007. The Giants will likely comb the weak free agent class for a solid veteran or use a high-round pick on a wideout.
Last winter, the Giants spent a lot of time and money addressing their linebackers and secondary. Guess what? They need to do it again. Antonio Pierce is set at middle linebacker, but LaVar Arrington is coming off a torn left Achilles, Carlos Emmons is always injured, and Brandon Short (free agent) should only be a backup. The team hopes Gerris Wilkinson will step up and earn a starting spot, but even if that happens, the Giants need to find someone else (not Chase Blackburn, not Reggie Torbor) in case Arrington isn't ready.
The pass defense actually took a step back in 2006 despite many additions. Safeties Will Demps and Gibril Wilson were far from impressive, but the duo could be back. Demps is only one season into a five-year deal, and Wilson is a restricted free agent. Cornerback Corey Webster played poorly and failed to fight through injuries. Coughlin certainly wasn't happy with the second-year player. The other starter, Sam Madison, may keep his gig, but he turns 33 this April and is expendable. R.W. McQuarters played well for a stretch, but he's not a guy they'll look to as a starter. Ditto Kevin Dockery. We imagine the Giants will look outside for one starter and keep either Madison or Webster in the lineup.
Help is on the Way? In-house, the team will aim to re-sign center Shaun O'Hara, kicker Jay Feely, and a handful of less costly options. O'Hara was an alternate for the Pro Bowl and could command a healthy raise.
Where will Reese make his first big splash? Will he break the bank to reel in Nate Clements, Asante Samuel, Lance Briggs, or Adalius Thomas? Early salary cap projections suggest the Giants have room to go after one marquee name, but they probably can't nab a second star. If Reese does go big, it will be on defense. If they don't land a Clements or Samuel, Spagnuolo could convince the franchise to aim a little lower and grab Eagles nickelback Rod Hood, who is looking for a starting gig.
We already mentioned Green and Turner as potential running back targets, and the top free agent wide receivers include Donte Stallworth, Drew Bennett, and Kevin Curtis. The Giants could address one or both of these spots in the draft, but it probably won't be with their current first-round pick. Most mocks have the top two running backs (Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch) and the top three receivers (Calvin Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr., Dwayne Jarrett) going before the 20th spot, and the next running backs and receivers do not fall until later in the round.
Thus, the Giants first pick will likely be a linebacker or cornerback. Later first-day and early second-day selections could include running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, safety, and defensive tackle.
Wants and Needs: The Giants entered the offseason with a number of glaring holes to fill, and, thus far, general manager Jerry Reese has only been able to apply couple patches and a few coats of paint. The way we see it, Big Blue could go one of three ways with their top pick – cornerback, linebacker or wide receiver. Sam Madison's best days are behind him, R.W. McQuarters is not a long-term answer, and the jury is still out on Corey Webster and Kevin Dockery. They badly need a rookie who can contribute right away. Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell will occupy two of the starting linebacker spots, and the Giants need to add another body here. How pressing is the need? That depends partially on how the club feels about Gerris Wilkinson, who will be entering his second season. Even if they love Wilkinson, the Giants shouldn't leave day one without another linebacker. At receiver, Amani Toomer is coming off a torn ACL, and Sinorice Moss should be no more than a slot option. Eli Manning struggled when he didn't have a tertiary option last year, and the Giants certainly don't want that to happen again. The G-Men will also look to add an offensive lineman (they lost Luke Petitgout), a backup tight end to replace Visanthe Shiancoe, and a kicker. Jay Feely left via free agency, and Big Blue is currently carrying untried options Josh Huston and Marc Hickok.
Potential Selections: Many mock drafts have the Giants eagerly snatching up Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny. The only problem with such a forecast is that Posluszny could draw interest from a number of teams who pick before the G-Men. The 20th spot will be too late for Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis (who plays inside), but Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons is a solid option. This draft features a number of quality corners in guys like Darrelle Revis (Pittsburgh), Chris Houston (Arkansas), and Aaron Ross (Texas). But…wide receivers like Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio State), Dwayne Bowe (LSU), Dwayne Jarrett (USC), and Robert Meachem (Tennessee) could also be available at the 20 spot. Any of those picks would make sense in the first round. Our bet is that the Giants stick to defense in the first round and try to land a possession receiver like Steve Smith (USC) or Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio State) in the second round. Given that Tom Coughlin is still around, the G-Men will land their obligatory Boston College selection (offensive tackle James Marten or guard Josh Beekman) in the third round.