New York Giants Free Agency: Strut 'Em Or Cut 'Em - Linebackers/Safeties

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05: Chase Blackburn #93 of the New York Giants intercepts a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots in the second half during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

We now continue with our ongoing series, "As The Salary Cap Turns." Thus far, we have explored the wide receivers, tight ends, backup quarterback and the offensive and defensive lines. Since there are so many Big Blue defensive backs hitting the free agency market this offseason, I will be separating the backs and the safeties. We will also throw the linebackers into this edition, just because we've got it like that.

As mentioned yesterday, the New York Giants are reported to be over the salary cap somewhere in the seven-to-nine million dollar neighborhood, a very expensive 'hood to be in. We talked about some of the heavy hitters, who by cutting them could free up a great deal of money. In this article we will talk about another high paid fat cat, nearing the end of his career. I am referring to Deon Grant, of course.

Deon Grant was brought in with the Giants in 2010. He put together one of the best seasons of his career that year. However, it looked bleak for Grant, as the Giants didn't re-sign him until August of last year. Grant was offered a one-year extension at a hefty, four-million dollars.

One of the problem areas for the G-Men, this past season, was giving up a wealth of receiving yards, the third most in the NFL. Their defensive backfield were able to plug up the holes in the postseason, when it mattered. But the fact still remains, the Giants gave up 4,417 receiving yards in the regular season. Deon Grant, now going into his thirteenth-season in the league, was partially to blame.

As with most NFL athletes, going out on top is the ideal way to go. It is how everyone wants to go out. After four teams and twelve years, will Grant make the decision for the front office by taking his first and only Super Bowl ring and ride off into the sunset? Perhaps.

Deon Grant has never missed a game, because of injury, throughout his entire career. He has been a starter for most of it, aside from these last two seasons with the Giants. Grant started eight games in the 2010 season. This past season, he started nine games and was less effective than the previous year. With the front office having to trim a great deal of fat during this offseason, Grant's four-million dollar salary, along with his age, might be one of the answers. Do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

Derrick Martin - we have no salary numbers on this kid. We can assume that he is not making anywhere near top dollar, given his stat sheet. He played in fourteen games this past season and has twelve combined tackles. He spent three years with the Baltimore Ravens and two years with the Green Bay Packers. He only started sixteen games once in his career. The Giants have a knack for hiring the guys that they need to fill the position. They must have seen something in him to have brought him on, even though he wasn't much of a difference maker. With Deon Grant being a possible cut, they might just look to keep this kid around. Do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

Moving on to another problematic area for Big Blue this past season, the linebacker corps. Ironically enough, the two linebackers who find themselves as free agents were not to blame for the issues that belong to this particular position. First, let's talk about the guy who sat the entire season out due to injury, Jonathan Goff. After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, a very common injury these days, Goff was forced to undergo surgery and couch surf his way to a Super Bowl ring.

Prior to that, he was a fifth-round Draft choice by the New York Giants in 2008. He was used minimally that year. In the 2010 season, Goff earned the starting job. He recorded eighty combined tackles, one sack, two pass deflections and one forced fumble. Goff's salary, for the 2011 season, was a reported $555,00, sans bonuses. That number, despite the injury, will most likely look to be increased by the Goff camp. As we have become accustomed to, the front office and salary increases do not a marriage make. Goff is a decent linebacker. But will the Giants be better off looking towards the free agent market or NFL Draft for a solid linebacker that they desperately need? Jonathan Goff, do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

The world loves an underdog story, a fairy tale. New York is no different. That is just what we have here. Chase Blackburn is a modern day Cinderella, although I am certain he might not care for the comparison. He was cut by the Giants, during training camp this past year, to make room for four rookie linebackers who could not get the job done. Blackburn tried out for other teams but received no offers. So, he returned home and started teaching math at a middle-school in Ohio.

Recognizing that help was required, the front office gave Blackburn a call. He gladly accepted the opportunity presented to him. In his first game back, against the Green Bay Packers, he intercepted a pass from Aaron Rodgers and deflected two others. He also recorded five combined tackles. The Giants lossed that game but Blackburn continued to make his mark.

Chase Blackburn found himself living a dream. He was back on the football field, in his old jersey, and helping his team get into the playoffs. Blackburn was instrumental in the Giants becoming Super Bowl XLVI Champions. He had the third-most tackles of all the linebackers in the postseason. He also recorded two pass deflections and intercepted one very significant pass from Tom Brady.

Chase was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2005 when the Giants picked him up. He has spent his entire seven-year (or 6.33 depending on how you look at it) career with the New York Giants. He is a two-time Super Bowl Champion and the front office now has to look at this guy with a wide-angle lens. Blackburn signed a one-year, six-hundred and eighty-five thousand dollar deal this past November. Now what?

The front office cut him in training camp. They called him back. He answers the challenge and goes above and beyond the organization's expectations. There are salary cap issues and a lingering need at the linebacker position. Logic dictates that he will be looking for a raise, for all that he did to help the team win the Super Bowl. The entire Big Blue fan base is routing for Chase Blackburn, the underdog teacher from Ohio. Did he earn his spot back on the roster? Will Jerry Reese do the unthinkable? Well, do you strut 'em or cut 'em?

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