Next up on our ongoing Free Agency series are the Tight Ends. So far, we have covered the Wide Receivers. The New York Giants find themselves with a bit of a conundrum at this position. Last season, the front office watched the six-foot six-inch behemoth, more familiarly known as Kevin Boss, ride off into the sunset, after four seasons with Big Blue. The decision not to retain Boss seemed questionable, to say the least. As Giants fans are learning, however, Jerry Reese has an unrivaled eye for rock-solid talent at rock-bottom prices.
There are two very familiar names in the 2012 NFL Free Agency market, Visanthe Shiancoe and Jeremy Shockey. Both of these tight ends used to call the Meadowlands home. One of the first things Jerry Reese did when brought on board, in 2007, was release Shiancoe. The following year, he said farewell to Shockey. Boss made it a few years more than his positional predecessors. But Reese, the mild-mannered savant, filled the position, last season, with an athlete who has outperformed all three of the former-Giants since their release. That member of the Super Bowl XLVI Championship team, now finds himself with the, not-so-endearing scenario of - take it or leave it. Let's take a look.
Jake Ballard, who seemed to have materialized from thin air, made an immediate impact on the Giants organization. It wasn't long into the 2011 season that fans started to ask the question, "Kevin who?" Most people didn't know where he came from and weren't too concerned. He was producing in a big way and that is all anyone could ever hope for.
Ballard had some pretty big shoes to fill. Seeing as how he outweighed Boss by twenty-pounds and equaled his height, stepping into those shoes was not a difficult task. Ballard proved to be a tough competitor on the field, taking hits over the middle, getting back up and off to the races on the very next play. Those big, pounding hits wound up taking their toll. Jake injured his right knee against the Washington Redskins in Week 15.
Ballard did not return until the Wild-Card game against the Atlanta Falcons. He was not a major factor in the offensive game plan, as he typically was throughout the season. He only caught two-passes for sixteen-yards. it was obvious that his injury was not fully healed.
The following week, in the Divisional game against the Green Bay Packers, Jake was targeted eight times, having only caught one-pass. This, of course, was uncharacteristic of Ballard's performance in the regular season. In the Conference game against the San Francisco 49ers, Ballard was targeted once, but did not come down with the ball. In the Super Bowl, he was hit two-out-of-three times for a total of ten yards - and a long of nine.
It was in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLVI that Ballard's knee finally gave out. Coincidentally, backup tight end, Travis Beckum, injured his right knee in the first half of the game, leaving the Giants virtually depleted at the tight end position. Both of these individuals have since undergone knee surgery. But only Ballard is a free agent this year.
Jake Ballard is not just a free agent. He is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent. What does that mean? To put it simply, because Ballard only has two years of NFL experience, the Giants can offer him the three-year minimum salary for a veteran. Jake doesn't have to take it. If he doesn't, however, he will be have to leave the NFL. To further simplify it, he has to take it or leave it. You can guess what his choice will be.
Reports have already gone out that he and Travis Beckum will start on the PUP (Physically Unable To Perform) List at the start of the 2012 season. Ballard finds himself between a rock and a hard place. His performance, up until his injury, certainly warrants a few extra dollars. But he will not see them. If Jake Ballard were a three-year man in the NFL and wanted to add those extra shekels to his fanny pack, would you strut 'em or cut 'em?
With Beckum and Ballard starting the season off on the bench, that leaves Bear Pascoe to…um…bear the brunt of the load. The problem here is that he is a free agent. But wait. There's still more. He is actually a restricted free agent, meaning that if another team throws money at him, the Giants would have the opportunity to match it - providing they want to keep him. There are some other things that come into play with the restricted free agent, such as a team giving up a draft pick for a player, if they want him bad enough. But this is not likely to happen.
Bear Pascoe certainly proved that he can play. He is a good blocker. But the Giants haven't used him enough to truly showcase all of his abilities. Thus, he has not warranted any sort of interest from other teams around the league. Being that the G-Men are a bit short supplied in the tight end department, they will be forced to look around and acquire another tight end, either in the Free Agent market or in the Draft. Pascoe doesn't seem to hold enough stock to trade up in the Draft or for another player in the NFL. But one never knows what Jerry Reese has up his sleeve. If all things were equal, would you strut 'em or cut 'em?
Here's a little bonus, since there is only one player at this position. David Carr, the ten-year veteran, is on the market. Carr currently is the backup quarterback to Eli Manning. Carr spent five years as a starter for the Houston Texans, with mild success. With Eli Manning's iron man streak in full force, it is highly unlikely that we will see Carr doing any "Discount Double Checks" in the near future. However, as we witnessed this past season with the injury of Peyton Manning, having a primo backup quarterback could make or break a season.
Can David Carr step in and lead the New York Giants to a winning season? There is no other backup quarterback after Carr. If Manning and Carr were injured, "at the end of the day" you might see Antrel Rolle throwing the ball. Carr is no spring chicken. Is it in the Giants best interest to seek out a quality backup? Is it time for another "Hefty Lefty?" It will be interesting to see how this plays out. David Carr, do you strut 'em or cut 'em?