Ahmad Bradshaw is one free agent the Giants need to make every effort to keep for the 2011 season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
OK, gang. Time to get serious. We have fiddled around and filled time -- and Inter-Google bandwidth -- long enough. This exasperating NFL Lockout is going to end at some point, and there is going to be an NFL season. Most likely, it seems, a full one. Even if there is a slight delay in getting training camps launched.
So, let's quit marking time and start talking about some of the serious issues facing the 2011 Giants. One of the biggest, of course, is free agency. Current belief is that the new collective bargaining agreement is going to return to pre-2010 rules, meaning players with four years of service can be unrestricted free agents. Going by that set of rules, the players listed below will be free agents the Giants will have to make decisions on once the lockout ends. (Kudos,' incidentally, to Pat Traina of Inside Football for graciously confirming this list for me).
I will give you my thoughts on each player, and a conclusion about what I believe the Giants should do.
Ahmad Bradshaw Highlights 2010 - 2011 (via izzyfizzy043) . Great AB highlights
here, even if I would have chosen a little more upbeat music for this.
HB Ahmad Bradshaw -- When I look at this list, it really begins and ends right here. This is the one free-agent-to-be the Giants have whom they absolutely cannot let get away. I know Carolina's DeAngelo Williams will be a free agent, and there are some other good back available, and I know Bradshaw fumbled seven times last season. I know there are questions about his longevity, about how much pounding he can take long-term and continue to play as well as he has the last couple of seasons. The Giants will probably have to dangle more money in front of Bradshaw than they would like in order to keep him, but he is a game-changer and there just are not many backs with his type of ability. Only two backs in the NFL broke more tackles in 2010 than the diminutive Bradshaw. I like Brandon Jacobs and I have high hopes for Da'Rel Scott, but losing Bradshaw would be a huge blow to the Giants.
Conclusion: Pay the man.
WR Steve Smith -- His knee injury complicates the process, but Smith is important to Eli Manning and to the Giants offense. With him sidelined for half of the season, we saw way too many receiver-quarterback miscommunications in what is probably an overly complex Giants passing attack. All offseason Smith has talked like a Giant, making it obvious he wants to be back. The Giants should also want him back, although not at the huge numbers he might have gotten had he stayed healthy.
Conclusion -- The Giants have to bring him back. I don't think this will be a problem, either. With the uncertainty about his knee I just don't see a huge market developing for his services.
TE Kevin Boss -- Boss dropped 11 passes in 2010, which is way too many. And he will never be Dallas Clark or Tony Gonzalez. He has been a good player for the Giants, however, and does offer the Giants a useful skill set and a target Eli Manning is already comfortable with.
Conclusion -- Until proven otherwise, I have to believe the fumble-fingered Boss of 2010 was an aberration. He has been a reliable target, and if Bear Pascoe is going to be a fullback Boss is the only traditional all-around tight end the Giants have. They need to keep him.
OG Kevin Boothe -- He is a decent journeyman backup at guard and center. It would be nice if the Giants could bring him back, especially if they were to part ways with Shawn Andrews. If there is a team out there will to offer Boothe an opportunity to battle for a starting job, though, he might take it.
Conclusion -- It would be nice to keep him, but he's not worth getting in a bidding war over.
DT Barry Cofield -- We have talked about this one over and over. Cofield wants a big payday and the Giants have not been willing to give it to him. In drafting Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin the past two seasons it seems the Giants have been positioning themselves for life after Barry.
Conclusion -- Cofield is almost certainly a goner. Somebody will give him the big contract he seeks, and it says here that they will eventually figure out what the Giants already seem to have concluded. Cofield is a good player, but not a Pro Bowl caliber guy worth the big contract he will likely get on the open market.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka -- This is a tough one. The neck injury Kiwanuka suffered in 2010 makes it unlikely another team would be willing to offer Kiwanuka a big-money, long-term deal. Someone might, however, offer him a short-term. incentive-laden deal and an opportunity to play full-time -- something the Giants won't be able to offer even if they trade Osi Umenyiora.
Conclusion -- I would love to see Kiwanuka back with the Giants. I think he was headed for a monster year in 2010 before he got hurt, and I want to see if he can pick up where he left off. What, though, is a fair offer for Kiwanuka? To be honest, I really don't know.
DE Dave Tollefson -- Tollefson is one of those veteran, effort guys who gives you everything he has, helps the special teams and is a quality guy to have around. If the Giants keep Umenyiora and Kiwanuka you have to wonder if Tollefson might look for a team where he can play a little more.
QB Jim Sorgi -- See ya, Jim. We hardly knew ya!
WR Derek Hagan -- When the Giants made the mistake of cutting Hagan before the 2010 season began no one picked him up, thus enabling the Giants to bring him back at mid-season when the receiving corps was decimated by injuries. After the five-year veteran caught 24 passes in just seven games you would have to think someone out there noticed, and that Hagan will have some suitors once free agency begins for the role of third or fourth wide receiver.
Conclusion -- I would like to see Hagan brought to camp by the Giants, but as we have talked about the Giants have numbers at this position. If Hagan gets a decent offer from a team that needs help at wide receiver he would be foolish not to take it.
WR Michael Clayton -- No harm bringing Clayton to camp, but no big deal to the Giants if he gets a chance to go somewhere else.
LB Keith Bulluck -- See ya, Keith. Have fun playing in Detroit or wherever you wind up. Bulluck has made it clear he would not return to the Giants unless he had the opportunity to play every down. Well, that isn't going to happen so the veteran linebacker needs to find another place to play.
LB Chase Blackburn -- This is a player the Giants might hate to lose, but it is pretty obvious at this point that he is never going to get a full opportunity to be an every down starting linebacker with the Giants. Like many of the Giants free agents, though, if someone offers him a chance to start I think it would be hard for Blackburn to turn down. And there really isn't much reason for the Giants to get in a bidding war for his services.
Conclusion -- He would be a nice player to keep as a backup linebacker, and we know he is a quality coverage guy on special teams.
LB Gerris Wilkinson -- Here is a better question than should the Giants try to bring Wilkinson back for 2011. Why have the Giants kept Wilkinson this long?
S Deon Grant -- I think it is a no-brainer that the Giants would like to have Grant back. He is a quality player and with Perry Fewell's love for the three-safety look there is an obvious role for him. Grant made no waves in 2010, but he also made it clear he wants to be a starter.
Conclusion -- I just don't think this one is up to the Giants. If he is offered a chance to start somewhere, I think he jumps at it.
S Michael Johnson -- There is only one possible reason for keeping Johnson, and that would be for depth if they are unable to re-sign Grant. I am pretty sure the Giants don't want to head into the season with rookie Tyler Sash as their only backup safety. I have to believe, though, that the Giants might be inclined to let Johnson go and look for another veteran backup safety in the free agent market.