New York Giants Free Agency: Strut 'Em Or Cut 'Em - Offensive/Defensive Line

Feb 24, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin speaks at a press conference during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to forge ahead with our ongoing series. Last week, we covered the wide receivers, tight ends and backup quarterback. To kick things off this week, we'll address a very big issue - a six-foot six-inch, three-hundred and thirty pound issue at that. He is not only big in size but his salary is proportionate to his body mass index.

The New York Giants are reported to be over the salary cap, by as little as seven million and as much as nine million dollars. Of all of the Big Blue Free Agents hitting the market this season, none command the salary of Kareem McKenzie. The reported figure, for this seven-year veteran of the G-Men, is $4.3 million dollars. If the figures are correct, dumping McKenzie would decrease the Giants' salary cap issues by about half. With the offensive line going through a major overhaul last season, is the choice to cut Kareem McKenzie the right way to go?

Soon after the NFL Lockout ended and the preseason preparations began, two of the most well loved members of the Big Blue offensive line, who had a combined total of seventeen years with the organization, came to the Giants facility, only to find out that they were cut. This came as quite a shock to Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara, who were the unlucky aforementioned duo. As Giants fans, as well as players learned, no one is safe.

The 2011 season found the offensive line plagued by injury - much like the 2010 wide receiver plague. Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride were forced to juggle the o-line quite a bit this past year. With all of the shuffling and changes made to the offensive line, one of the only constants was Kareem McKenzie. In fact, McKenzie has been a solid member of the New York Giants since 2005, having only missed a total of five games in his his seven-year tenure with Big Blue. He is also widely regarded as one of the best offensive lineman in the league.

We have discussed the obvious problem, greenbacks. What hasn't been mentioned is McKenzie's age. 2012 will be Kareem's twelfth season in the NFL. McKenzie is thirty-two years old. He certainly has more years in him. To delve deeper into something we touched on earlier, McKenize has only missed eight games in his eleven-year career. He is big. He is tough. He knows how to play the game. He has been a great source of protection for Eli Manning and he has two Super Bowl rings.

Unfortunately, the Giants have to rectify their salary cap woes. This turns Kareem Mckenzie into a mountain-like target. The Giants have proved that they do not like to dig too deep into their pockets. There are some some good offensive tackles in the 2012 NFL Draft. The only problem is that the best ones will be gone before the Giants are on the clock. One thing that works in their favor - the Free Agent market is silly with OTs. It is indeed a sad thing to see his head-on the chopping block but…Kareem McKenzie, do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

Another dilemma, or possible fix, is Stacy Andrews. In his ninth-season in the NFL, Andrews is another member of the Super Bowl XLVI team to hit the free agent market. I find it ironic that McKenize and Andrews both hit the market at the same time, since they both play the same position on the team. Andrews, however, has not been as physically solid as McKenzie.

In 2008, Andrews tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He wound up being sidelined in 2009 due to a flare up of the very same injury. Stacy Andrews joined the Giants for the 2011 season. Having commanded a franchise-tag and a whopping $7.5 million dollars in his career, the Big Blue front office picked Andrews up for a reported $810,000. In Week 13, Andrews was hospitalized for pulmonary embolisms in his lungs, putting an end to his season.

It is possible that Andrews tries to push his salary to an even million dollars, especially if McKenzie is cut. Then again, Jerry Reese might take a look at this guy's history and see an injury prone, used-to-be who is sopping up a million bucks of salary cap money that could be better used elsewhere. Not to mention that Will Beatty will be back, earns almost half-as-less as Andrews and will be looking to fill the position. I do not like to perpetuate rumors, but there are also grumblings of David Diehl being a possible cut this year, helping to free up another four-million dollars. My gut and business sense tell me that chopping the line up to this extent would be the quickest route to a .500 season or less. The rumors of Diehl going bye-bye just don't seem valid to me. However, the question still remains, Stacy Andrews - do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

On the other side of the line, we have three players who may find themselves wearing different colored jerseys in the 2012 season - that or watching the season from home. Between these three defensive linesman there is twenty-four years of NFL experience. That is not chump change. Rocky Bernard, having just finished up his third year with the Giants, is entering into his eleventh year in the league. He spent the brunt of his career with the Seattle Seahawks. His best days certainly seem to be behind him. However, he does fill in, as a backup, adequately.

Jimmy Kennedy, a New Yorker out of Yonkers, joined the G-Men for the 2011 season. He will be making his way into the tenth-year of his career in 2012. Of the previous nine years in the NFL, he was only used as a starter in the 2006 season, with the St Louis Rams.

The big news on the D-Line, of those who are now free agents, is Dave Tollefson. Tolly had a breakout season, relatively speaking. Tollefson has never been used enough to earn a high price tag. What he did do this past season, given the amount of time that he saw on the field, was showcase his ability to get to the quarterback. Tollefson recorded five sacks in 2011, a personal best. The 2012 season will be Tolly's sixth. The NFL does not credit his time on the practice squad with the Green Bay Packers in 2006 as a year in the NFL. Tollefson was the final Packers pick of the 2006 NFL Draft.

But the really, really, ridiculously big news of this D-line is the re-working, or failure to re-sign, Osi Umenyiora. Osi is not a free agent, of course. However, he was very vocal at the beginning of last season that Jerry Reese promised to re-work his contract, something that did not happen. Now, with another Super Bowl under his belt and an outstanding showing, when he was healthy, Osi is once more looking to get his pay day.

Umenyiora, reportedly, makes $3.125 million a year. Many Giants, including Brandon Jacobs, were asked to take a paycut last year. Behind closed doors, you can just imagine that promises were made that would apply to the following year, i.e. now. The bonuses that were paid out for the postseason were probably also used as a motivator to take the paycuts mentioned. Needless to say, the Giants won the Super Bowl and it is now the following year. Asking these same guys to take a paycut would be an insult. Yet, that just might be the case, once again.

In Umenyiora's case, Jerry Reese would know better than anyone else that Osi's "show me the money" scale is leaning towards getting the raise he has been looking for. Does Umenyiora deserve a raise? Should the Giants re-work his contract and keep him in Blue? Abso-freakin-lutely!

Osi will be reaching his tenth season in the league and as a New York Giant. He has had his share of injuries, even missing out a big part of the 2011 season. If you are having a hard time figuring out if Reese should up a few extra beans for Osi, all you need to know is the following: nine games played in the regular season resulting in nine sacks. Osi, along with Justin Tuck were tied in the postseason with most sacks (3.5). JJ Watt and Brooks Reed also had three-and-a-half sacks.

Yes, cutting Osi will free up three-mill. But it will also take away one of the most respected and feared defensive lineman in the game. It will also decrease the fierceness of this all-too-dominating defensive front.

Unfortunately, we do not have any salary figures to work with regarding the three backup d-linesman who are on the cutting board. One can only imagine that Bernard, en route to his eleventh-season and Kennedy, approaching season ten, are making more than minimum wage at their position. With Jerry Reese's Draft and offseason bargain hunting expertise, would it be safe to say that he could find a better price tag on some younger, equally talented players as these two? Has Tollefson proved to be indispensable enough to keep his roster spot? Dave Tollefson, Rocky Bernard and Jimmy Kennedy - do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

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