(Sports Network) - The New York Giants enter a pivotal offseason following a disappointing 4-12 campaign. New head coach Tom Coughlin utilized his first month on the job to assemble a coaching staff and analyze last season's game film to get a better feel for the roster.
GM Ernie Accorsi must get on the same page with Coughlin after working with Jim Fassel, who began his tenure in 1997. The tandem needs to make a decision on QB Kerry Collins, whose contract expires after the upcoming season. Backup quarterbacks Jesse Palmer and Jason Garrett are both free agents.
One of the first moves Coughlin made was to release veteran running backs Brian Mitchell and Dorsey Levens. Mitchell was a bust as a return man last year, while Coughlin will look elsewhere for a backup to the fumble-prone Tiki Barber. Former No. 1 pick Ron Dayne, who was a coach's decision not to dress for all 16 games in 2003, will get a clean slate under the new coach.
The offensive line is the most glaring weakness. Injuries and inexperience caught up with New York last season and forced Collins to get rid of the ball too early. The Giants have a wealth of offensive weapons -- Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard -- but they are useless if Collins doesn't have time to throw.
New York could select LT Robert Gallery (Iowa) with the fourth overall pick in April's draft. Signing a couple of veteran linemen is inevitable. The team needs insurance against OG Rich Seubert, who suffered a broken leg last season, not coming back soon enough.
The Giants have worries all over the defense, which has now been left in the hands of former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. On the defensive line, Keith Hamilton retired and fellow DT Cornelius Griffin is an unrestricted free agent who could price himself out of a return to New York. William Joseph, last year's top pick, proved to be a rookie bust.
Linebacker and the secondary are other concerns. Starting OLBs Brandon Short and Dhani Jones are both set to hit the open market. The team is more interested in re-signing Jones, but the club won't go over the top to retain him. New York targeted San Francisco's Julian Peterson before the Niners put the franchise tag on him. Carlos Emmons is another possibility to bolster the linebacking corps. RFA Will Peterson, who starts opposite Will Allen at cornerback, will be tendered at a first-round compensation rate. Both Peterson and Allen are coming off season-ending injuries, and the club has a void at free safety.
KEY UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB-Jason Garrett, WR-Ron Dixon, TE-Tony McGee, C-Chris Bober, DE-Frank Ferrara, DE-Kenny Holmes, DE-Keith Washington, DT- Cornelius Griffin, LB-Dhani Jones, LB-Brandon Short, CB-Ralph Brown, CB-Ike Charlton, CB-Ray Green, CB-Kato Serwanga, S-Johnnie Harris.
KEY RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB-Jesse Palmer, TE-Marcellus Rivers, DT-Lance Legree, CB-Will Peterson, S-Clarence LeBlanc.