What are the New York Giants going to do at linebacker? The 2013 NFL Draft has come and gone and -- once again -- the Giants have ignored a position fans have been pleading for them to upgrade for years, and where analysts this time expected the Giants to use an early pick (first three rounds) to bolster the position.
Yet, the Giants passed on Jesse's man-crash, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree in the first round on Thursday, selecting Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh. They passed on Arthur Brown of Kansas State, the top-rated linebacker in the 2013 draft class by Mocking The Draft, in the second round. They passed, in fact, on every linebacker available in the draft.
So, what do the Giants do now? Do they really intend to open training camp with likely two-down linebacker Dan Connor starting in the middle, flanked by the fragile Keith Rivers and the still unproven as an every-down player Jacquian Williams? Do they intend to enter the season with only Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and whatever undrafted rookie free agents impress as the backups?
After the draft concluded, head coach Tom Coughlin hinted that the Giants might not be done poking around in free agency to see if there is a linebacker available who can help them.
"I think you are always concerned with trying to be the best - have the best players you can," Coughlin said. "I'm sure there will be other looks at what is available out there prior to going to camp."
Let's take a look at players currently available in free agency. Here is a list of three candidates who might be able to help the Giants.
The Chicago Bears parted ways with the 34-year-old veteran after 13 seasons, eight Pro Bowls and four All-Pro nominations. Urlacher will end up in the NFL Hall of Fame.
The only thing that should matter to the Giants, though, is whether Urlacher still has at least one more quality season left. That is highly debatable. Walter Football says bluntly that Urlacher was "terrible" in 2012. His -13.6 Pro Football Focus grade against the run backs that up.
Valentine's View: The Giants middle linebacker in 2013 is likely to be a two-down player, with extra defensive backs and the three-safety look on the field in passing situations. Connor is a better run defender, and a better bet to stay healthy, than Urlacher at this point in their career. I would pass on Urlacher.
The nine-year veteran has yet to find a home after being cut by the Miami Dolphins. The giants, if memory serves, flirted with Dansby a couple of years ago. Walter Football refers to Danby as "a very strong run defender who can still play all three downs."
Valentine's View: At this point I don't think anyone would complain if the Giants brought Dansby in, especially one one-year deal.
If the Giants wanted my opinion, and I know they don't, this is the guy I would bang the table for and demand that the Giants inquire about right now. The nine-year veteran was a starter and every-down player for the Jacksonville Jaguars for eight season until a serious groin injury limited him in 2012. Walter Football says the injury might indicate that Smith's skills are eroding, but that he has "been one of the top 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL over the years."
Smith is "a "do everything" three-down linebacker who has played and started at all three spots in a 4-3 defense" and added that "I still think Smith has at least 3 seasons of high level play left in him."
There are any number of other veteran stop-gap type players on the market the Giants could inquire about. The Giants could also wait until June to see if any other intriguing linebacker candidates are cut loose by NFL teams. They could even go into the pre-season and wait until final cuts to see if anyone they like is cut right before the season opens.