Center David Baas was the one big free-agent signing by New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese prior to the 2011 NFL season, brought in to anchor the Giants' offensive line after three-time Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara was betrayed by his body after 11 NFL seasons.
The Giants won the Super Bowl, of course, but Baas first season with the Giants was a difficult one. He played just 11 games, missing time with what was listed as a neck injury, though it was eventually disclosed that Baas was suffering severe headaches. When Baas did play, it wasn't especially well. He compiled a -11.3 rating from Pro Footbal Focus, and there were times when it seemed like the Giants offensive line played better with fill-in center Kevin Boothe in the lineup than it did with the highly-paid Baas.
Baas makes the list of 'Players Under Pressure' entering the 2012 season because he has a long, long way to go to justify the five-year, $27.5-million contract ($11.5 million guaranteed) the Giants signed him to prior to last season.
To be fair to Baas, the NFL Lockout meant that free agency was held right before the start of training camps. And the new training camp rules agreed to in the Collective Bargaining Agreement took away two-a-day practices, giving Baas very little time to learn his teammates, learn the offense and refine the communication a center is responsible for -- something that only comes with time and practice.
Yet, Baas' individual performance left a lot to be desired. The -11.3 rating placed him 29th out of 34 centers graded by PFF. As we know, the play of the offensive line as a whole also left a lot to be desired.
The Giants can hope for a full, healthy season from left tackle Will Beatty. They can hope David Diehl has enough left to handle right tackle. They can hope Mitch Petrus is ready for full-time duty at left guard, and that right guard Chris Snee is healthy and resembles the Pro Bowl player he was a couple of seasons ago.
If the line is to be better, however, they need Baas to anchor it in the middle. Boothe is an adequate fill-in, but there remains no real long-term Plan B if Baas does not get the job done.
In 2010 with San Francisco, Baas graded +3.4 while playing center for the 49ers, including +6.0 as a run blocker. That is the player the Giants need to see in 2012. If that isn't the player they get next season the Giants might be forced to look elsewhere for a long-term anchor in the middle of their offensive line.