With the 2013 NFL Free Agency signing period just hours away from beginning, let's look into the crystal ball and make some New York Giants free agency predictions. Well, really, let's just comment on some free-agent predictions that Evan Silva of Rotoworld has already made.
Silva recently listed his top 100 free agents, forecasting where he thought each would end up. Let's look at current Giants, former Giants and could be future Giants Silva has listed.
26. Tight end Martellus Bennett -- 26-year-old Bennett gets the nod over Jared Cook as the top free-agent tight end behind Tony Gonzalez because "Black Unicorn" can block. Also a weapon via the pass, Bennett's receiving game reached new heights last season with career bests in catches (55), yards (626), and touchdowns (5). The Giants will face competition, but provide Bennett with his best opportunity at a true breakout year. They need to keep him.
Free Agent Forecast: Giants on a four-year, $22 million contract.
Valentine's View: Dollars-wise, this sounds about right for Bennett. Do the Giants value Bennett enough to give it to him, though? I'm not convinced.
39. Linebacker Daryl Smith -- Smith is coming off a lost season due to injury, but should have quality football left at age 31. He was one of the league's most underrated linebackers for many years before 2012. The Giants have repeatedly been floated as a potentially interested party. They could play Smith at SAM linebacker and move Mathias Kiwanuka back down to end.
Free Agent Forecast: Giants on a three-year, $10 million contract.
Valentine's View: This is an idea I can support. We profiled Smith as a potential Giants' target, and the nine-year veteran seems like a versatile player who would upgrade the Giants' linebacking corps. Alfie Crow of SB Nation's Jacksonville Jaguars web site, Big Cat Country, said 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."
41. Safety Kenny Phillips -- A worrisome history of knee injuries figures to limit Phillips to one-year, prove-it offers. When healthy, the former 31st draft pick has flashed difference-making cover skills and sure-tackling ability. Healthy in 2011, Phillips racked up 82 tackles, 11 pass breakups, four interceptions, and a forced fumble for the Super Bowl champ Giants. New Carolina GM Dave Gettleman was on New York's staff at the time, and his Panthers are needy at safety.
Free Agent Forecast: Panthers on a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
Valentine's View: As free agency opens the safety market seems flush with veteran players who still appear capable of being effective. That will drive the price tag down, meaning it seems unlikely there will be a big-money deal out there for Phillips. Whether or not the Giants want to pay him that $3.5 million depends on whether they still see him as a starter for them. With Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle, I suspect they don't.
70. Defensive lineman Chris Canty -- The dots are connecting Canty to Carolina. The 30-year-old grew up in Charlotte, and played in New York when new Panthers GM David Gettleman was a Giants front-office exec. Canty is a run-stuffing defensive tackle, and Carolina needs that. Canty has also stated he's willing to give the cap-strapped Panthers a "hometown discount."
Free Agent Forecast: Panthers on a two-year, $4 million contract.
Valentine's View: Carolina, where former Giants pro personnel analyst Dave Gettleman is now GM, could be a new home for several former Giants.
78. Linebacker Michael Boley -- The Buccaneers will release Quincy Black and must replace him at strong-side linebacker. Boley played for Tampa defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan with the Giants in 2009. He knows the scheme and would be a sensible stopgap solution.
Free Agent Forecast: Buccaneers on a two-year, $4.5 million contract.
Valentine's View: Pardon me for being callous, but I just don't see Boley as a big-time player. To be honest, I don't really care where he ends up.
Let's talk about Victor Cruz for a minute. Ultimately I believe all the hysteria about Cruz hitting the 'open' market won't amount to much. He might get an offer as a restricted free agent, though he would reportedly be the first player with a first-round tender to get an offer since 2003. Is anyone really going to blow their entire salary cap budget, plus fork over a first-round pick next month, though?
I have my doubts. Besides which, unless the offer is completely insane the Giants would be almost certain to match it.
What to make of Cruz hiring a new agent? Tom Condon of Creative Artists Agency is a big-time agent who has Eli Manning among his clients. Cruz hired Condon I'm certain hoping Condon could help him navigate the free-agent madness and maximize his earnings. Condon, however, might also be able to make Cruz see that even if the Giants won't pay him like a true No. 1 receiver that New York is the best place for him to maximize his off-the-field earnings, which will more than offset any perceived salary slight.
You think the salsa-dancing Cruz will be as big a marketing sensation in St. Louis or Baltimore as he is in New York? Not happening, and that has to be a factor.