If everything we have been hearing is correct, and the player reps today recommend ratifying the proposed collective bargaining agreement, teams could begin a short period of negotiations with their own exclusive free agents on Wednesday.
The New York Giants have a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it. We have talked about it here for months -- it's like we had much of anything else to do -- so we know which players the Giants major decisions revolved around. In case you have been living around a lockout rock, let me list the players about whom the Giants have choices to make:
Ahmad Bradshaw (which might force a decision about Brandon Jacobs), Osi Umenyiora, Steve Smith, Mathias Kiwanuka, Kevin Boss, Shawn Andrews, Shaun O'Hara. I am not bothering to list defensive tackle Barry Cofield, since I am pretty much certain Cofield will be bidding adieu to the Giants.
The biggest decision offensively revolves around Bradshaw. Over at SB Nation New York I recently compiled a Giants' To-Do List, and re-signing Bradshaw was at the top of my list. Here is what I wrote:
They have to get the running back's name on a contract. Period. He is their best back, he is still young and he is an explosive, unique player. The Giants cannot let him get away.
The New York Post agrees:
It’s hard to debate the importance of bringing back running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who in 2010 led the team in rushing with a career-high 1,235 yards. If he doesn’t return, the Giants must find another quality runner (DeAngelo Williams?) capable of starting, and that will cost as much or more than Bradshaw, who wants to get paid but also wants to stay.
The Star-Ledger, though, sounded a cautionary note about Bradshaw, who has been publicly flirting with the Miami Dolphins.Bradshaw has been putting the odds of him signing with the Giants at 75 percent, with a 25 percent shot of ending up in Miami. The Star-Ledger opines:
We put them closer 50-50, given Bradshaw’s lower-leg issues, fumbling problems, ever-present character concerns, a deep class of free-agent running backs and Bradshaw’s hinting he’d love to play for the Dolphins.
The foot and ankle injuries have to be a concern, as do the fumbling issues. I know Bradshaw had a checkered collegiate past, but that is the first time I have heard "character concerns" expressed about him as a Giant.
I am, however, sticking with the belief that the Giants need to keep Bradshaw. There is no guarantee they can replace his production internally or on the open market, and whatever issues they have with his injuries, fumbling or character there isn't another 25-year-old star back to be had.
The biggest decision defensively is, of course, what to do with Umenyiora. The Giants and Umenyiora need to decide quickly if they can, as John Mara urged, "work this thing out." If they can, great. If they can't then the Giants have to make sure Kiwanuka does not slip away. The Post hinted that Osi would hold out. If he threatens to do that, maybe the Giants should get what they can for him and move on. They don't have time to mess around at this point trying to appease him.
I will be back a little later with a notebook including some thoughts on the other guys, but I wanted to get this out to you.