Aaron Curry is the latest player to exemplify the New York Giants' bargain-bin approach to the linebacker position in recent years.
Look at the current roster. Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich were undrafted free agents. Jacquain Williams was a sixth-round pick. Keith Rivers was a first-round pick who flopped in Cincinnati. Dan Connor was a part-time player last season for the Dallas Cowboys.
Curry was signed by the Giants last week as a free agent, who will give him an opportunity to revive a career that has been derailed by knee injuries and sub-par play. He played only 18 snaps over two games for the Oakland Raiders last season before being released.
"He was the fourth pick in the draft a few years ago, so obviously we think he has some talent," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We had him graded high back then. We'll see what happens this spring with him.
"We're always looking for players and we like giving guys second opportunities. We think we have a good opportunity for him here to see if he can reinvent himself a little bit and bring something to this linebacking corps."
Reese indicated Curry could compete for a job at middle or strong-side linebacker.
Can the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Curry really be of any use to the Giants? I reached out to the SB Nation writers who saw Curry first-hand in recent years for their opinions. Danny Kelly of the Seattle Seahawks web site Field Gulls and Levi Damien of the Raiders web site Silver and Black Pride did not have anything encouraging to say about Curry, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Curry spent the first two-and-one-half seasons of his career with the Seahawks, playing 35 games (30 starts) with 5.5 sacks and 158 tackles.
Field Gulls' Kelly wrote the following as to why the Seahawks traded Curry to the Raiders mid-way through the 2011 season.
"It was his very questionable instincts and anticipation - he'd often get picked on in coverage, looked really unnatural in his drops, and when he was setting the edge in run support, struggled diagnosing where the play was going. I remember one play in particular where he went to engage with a Steelers tight end (Heath Miller I think) that was leading blocking on a sweep or something, and the ball carrier just ran right past Curry and he didn't even see him. He just appeared to be overthinking everything all the time and even his superb athleticism couldn't make up for it.
"In a limited role as a run-support player though -- with defined responsibilities -- he might be a good sub-package type. He played inside on nickel situations rushing the passer at times for Seattle and had some success. I think the new administration just wanted to move on from him because he was a big distraction by year three. Also, he was getting abused in pass coverage."
Curry's Pro Football Focus grades in his two full seasons in Seattle were -11.9 in 2009 (-7.1 vs. pass) and -6.0 in 2010 (-0.9 vs. pass). In 2011 he played five games with Seattle and 11 with Oakland. His PFF score was -6.7, with his pass defense grading at a neutral 0.0.
Damien, who watched him play for the Raiders in 2011 and 2012, showed little affection for Curry. He wrote:
"First and foremost, he is just not a smart player. He is a great character guy although his religious fanaticism might just have Tim Tebow taking a backseat. He is all hustle on the field and genuinely thinks that is "doing his job." His bad knees are what opened the door for rookie Miles Burris and eventually Curry was seen as expendable. I really don't know if he can succeed in New York. It would depend on his knees and how the team uses him. But make no mistake, he will need to be utilized in the simplest way possible. Give him too much responsibility and he will make a lot of mental mistakes."
The Giants are not expecting the second coming of Lawrence Taylor here. It's a simple low-risk move to provide some competition at a position where the Giants can still use help.
"Of course, it's a low risk, it's an opportunity for him," Reese said. "If he comes on and looks like the player he was when he was the fourth pick in the draft, it's a win-win for everybody."