The New York Giants have, as anyone who has paid any attention knows, been in the market for a new starting center. That became even more apparent Wednesday when the Giants officially released David Baas, whose neck and knee injuries may bring an end to his NFL career.
Would the replacement be one of the highly sought-after free agents on the market in Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Green Bay Packers or Brian De La Puente of the New Orleans Saints? Would the Giants would go nuts and try to pry Alex Mack away from the Cleveland Browns? If all else failed, they could bring back Kevin Boothe on a short-term deal and insert him as the center in-between Geoff Schwartz and Chris Snee.
So, no surprise that the Giants signed a center on Wednesday. But, J.D. Walton? The JD Walton who started for the Denver Broncos for two seasons, earning Pro Football Focus grades of -15.9 in 2010 and -28.0 in 2011? The J.D. Walton who played four games in 2012, suffered a severe ankle injury and has not appeared in a game since?
Yes, the Giants on Wednesday announced the signing of that J.D. Walton. And you know what, it might not be a bad move at all.
Walton was a third-round pick by Denver in 2010. After two poor seasons, he was playing well for the Broncos when he was injured. Pro Football Focus had this reaction to the Giants' signing of Walton:
The Giants really are serious about making over their offensive line aren't they? They've brought in J.D. Walton per Mike Klis, the former Broncos center who has struggled for playing time since a serious injury he picked up in week 4 of the 2012 season. It was a shame because after two horrible years to start his career he looked like he'd taken a leap forward (+5.1 on 256 snaps) with Peyton Manning behind him. Since then he's yet to see the field so carries little risk to the Giants if it doesn't work out. Pure, if somewhat limited, upside.
In 2013, Walton was on the active rosters of Denver for a month and the Washington Redskins for the season’s final two weeks, but did not play in a game.
Don't go crazy and believe the Giants are handing Walton the center job. Terms of Walton's contract were not announced, but it's a good bet that it's a one-year deal at or near the veteran minimum with nothing guaranteed. This move in no way precludes the Giants from signing another free-agent center -- or drafting one. This is a no-risk flier on a guy who -- if he has sufficiently recovered from his ankle injury -- might be a quality player. If he isn't, you cut him and move on.
Your thoughts, Giants' fans?