One of the New York Giants' biggest offseason priorities was to make sure free-agent middle linebacker Jon Beason returned to the team. The Giants made sure that happened by giving Beason a three-year, $16.8-million contract with with $6.03 million guaranteed. Did the Giants overpay? Probably. As we continue our player-by-player breakdown of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp next month let's look at why the Giants felt Beason was so important.
2013 Season In Review
Giants fans know the story. Desperate for help at the middle linebacker spot after placing Dan Connor on IR and once again finding Mark Herzlich an unsatisfactory answer the Giants Beason from the Carolina Panthers in the team's first mid-season trade since acquiring running back Ottis Anderson way back in 1986. Beason, a three-time Pro Bowler slowed by knee, achillies and shoulder injuries, had lost his middle linebacker job to Luke Kuechly and been supplanted at the strong side spot by ex-Giant Chase Blackburn. The Giants, forever seeking a strong presence at the middle linebacker spot, surrendered a seventh-round pick to find out whether Beason had any gas left in his tank.
The Giants surrendered 31 or more points in each of their first five games -- and, yes, some of those were on punt and interception returns. With Beason starting the final 11 games the Giants only gave up 30 or more points once (37 to the San Diego Chargers). Beason's on-field leadership and strong run defense were among the reasons the Giants went 7-3 down the stretch after a brutal 0-3 start.
Pro Football did not like Beason's work in 2013, giving him a -17.1 grade (-16.0 in pass coverage). Beason's value to the Giants, though, went beyond the numbers. The Giants defense was much better with him than without him, and the Giants believed his presence -- especially with ex-defensive captain Justin Tuck leaving via free agency for the Oakland Raiders -- was critical enough to hand him a big contract.
Beason played 15 games in 2013 after injuries limited him to only five in 2011 and 2012 combined. He has said that he "was just scratching the surface" of his ability last season.
"I think if you go into anything and you're not prepared for it, it's a recipe for disaster. You're not going to be successful," Beason said. "A lot of times guys have injuries in the offseason, have surgery and people expect that they're just going to go out and be who they are as opposed to having the chance to actually go through the training where you're strong, you're fast and you're in great condition where you can make those plays at a high level more consistently. That's what I'm looking forward to this year. I feel good, I'm in great shape and I'll be able to play at a much higher level than last year."
Back in his Pro Bowl years Beason was a plus pass defender, earning a career-best PFF score of +6.5 in 2010. Beason played only one game in 2011 after suffering a torn achilles tendon. In 2012 he played only four games, finishing the season on IR after suffering cartilage damage in his right knee and a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
After those leg injuries can a healthy offseason help Beason regain enough athleticism to be at least an adequate pass defender in 2014? That is an unknown, but the fact that Beason has been able to train normally for the first time since before the 2011 season can't hurt.
"I feel pretty good. It's fun to actually just train," Beason said. "That's all I want. You want to be the best, you want to put the time in, you double up, do what you've got to do and then you can play at a high level more consistently. That's the goal."
Beason's leadership on the field and in the locker room and his run defense already make him important to the Giants. His health, and his pass coverage, will determine how close he can get to the Pro Bowl player he once was.