I am still basking in the warm glow of the Giants' unexpected, unbelievable Super Bowl XLII championship. There are folks in my upstate New York area with all sorts of Giants' stuff outside their homes, including one guy who has painted 'Super Bowl Champs' into his lawn.
Yet, it is time in many ways to turn the page and begin thinking about the future, specifically next season.
The Giants have apparently already begun to do that, and the first move seems to be agreeing to a 5-year, $7M deal with kicker Lawrence Tynes.
With Tynes, who could have been an unrestricted free agent, in the fold the Giants have 14 other potential free agents, including several key defenders. The key unrestricted free agents (UFAs), who can negotiate with any team are linebackers Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor, safety Gibril Wilson and running back Derrick Ward. Starting safety James Butler is a restricted free agent, meaning the Giants can match any offer.
To me, the key players the Giants must try to bring back are Mitchell and Wilson. Mitchell, signed as a n under-the radar free agent by GM Jerry Reese, made a smooth transition to outside linebacker and became a key player. Wilson is a solid tackler and playmaker, though not a great cover guy. The Giants will likely have to pay dearly to keep him.
Ward provides needed depth and playmaking ability. Torbor is a guy I fear might leave, especially if Mitchell stays. With Mitchell, Gerris Wilkinson and Mathias Kiwanuka there is little chance Torbor can earn a full-time starting job. He may go somewhere looking for that chance.
Another significant unrestricted free agents is punter Jeff Feagles. If he doesn't retire, Feagles, the NFL's oldest player, will return to the Giants.
As for Butler, if I'm Reese and somebody really wants to make him an offer I would say sayonara. He is the weakest link on the Giants' defense.
Here the complete list of Giants' free agents.
Restricted Free Agents (RFA)
(A restricted free agent can negotiate with any team they choose, but the current team can match their offer)
Jared Lorenzen, QB
Adrian Awasom, DT
James Butler, S
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA)
(An unrestricted free agent can negotiate and sign with any team)
Derrick Ward, RB
Michael Jennings, WR
Russell Davis, DT
Kawika Mitchell, OLB
Reggie Torbor, OLB
Gibril Wilson, S
Jeff Feagles, P
Ryan Kuehl, LS
Exclusive-Rights Free Agent (ERFA)
(Not eligible for free agency, must accept what the team offers or not play)
Robert Douglas, FB
Dave Tollefson, DE
Manny Wright, DT