NFL Free Agency 2014 is nearly upon us. In some ways, it already is upon although negotiations with other teams' free agents can't begin until March 8 and the signing period does not begin until March 11. Let's look at the complete list of New York Giants' free agents, and make some predictions on which players will return to the Giants next season.
Priority No. 1
Jon Beason, LB -- Numerous recent reports have made it abundantly clear that when it comes to Giants' players who can become free agents on Tuesday, getting Beason to return to East Rutherford is the Giants' top priority. That's not surprising. After being acquired via trade from the Carolina Panthers Beason brought leadership and a presence in the middle of the defense the Giants have not had since the days of Antonio Pierce and, with apologies to Mark Herzlich, that they have no way of replacing. PREDICTION: Beason returns. He is simply more valuable to the Giants than he would be to anyone else at this point.
Going, Going ...
Hakeem Nicks, WR-- In Nicks' case, we might as well add the 'gone' part to 'going, going ...' At this point a return by Nicks to the Giants seems almost inconceivable. Honestly, it is time for a divorce, anyway. PREDICTION: Bye, Hakeem.
Justin Tuck, DE -- It certainly would be nice to get the veteran defensive end to return after a resurgent season, but the market might not allow it. Under no circumstances should the Giants overpay for the 31-year-old Tuck. If he returns it needs to be on a team-friendly deal of no more than two years that allows the Giants to get out from under it easily in 2015 if Tuck regresses. PREDICTION: Somebody overpays and Tuck leaves.
Linval Joseph, DT -- All indications are that Joseph is going to cash in big this offseason. The Giants have a replacement in-house already in 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins. Also, GM Jerry Reese has shown a talent for acquiring effective, low-cost tackles on the market to provide depth. PREDICTION: Joseph bolts.
Andre Brown, RB -- The Giants have to do something at running back. David Wilson is a huge question mark due to his neck surgery. Michael Cox is not the answer. Peyton Hillis is not a lead running back. There are intriguing options on the free-agent market, but no sure thing. There are durability questions with Brown, but bringing him back seems like a good idea if the price is right. PREDICTION: Brown returns to the Giants.
Trumaine McBride, CB -- After the best season of his six-year career I can't blame the 28-year-old McBride for testing the market. I also can't imagine anyone making a big offer for the 5-foot-9, 185-pound McBride, who was out of the league in 2012. PREDICTION: He returns to the Giants on a low-cost deal, probably for one year.
Terrell Thomas, CB -- Thomas was looking at a big payday before torn ACLs cost him the 2011 and 2012 seasons. After a good comeback season in 2013, Thomas said recently "I owe it to myself" to test the market. He does, but with three ACL surgeries on his resume I can't see a big market, or a big contract, coming his way. PREDICTION: I am conflicted on this one. I can see Thomas returning to the Giants, but I can also see him leaving -- possibly heading to a team closer to his California home. PREDICTION: Thomas leaves.
Stevie Brown, S -- After missing the 2013 season with a torn ACL Brown's most logical home for 2014 is back with the Giants. I am surprised this has not gotten done already. PREDICTION: Brown returns to the Giants.
Kevin Boothe, OL -- Boothe, 31 next season, has been valuable to the Giants because of his ability to play both guard and center. The Giants brought him back in 2013 on a one-year deal. Will they bring him back again? I think that depends largely on what happens in the early portions of free agency. I have a hard time seeing Boothe as a starter for the Giants in 2014, but I can see them keeping him as veteran depth at guard and center. PREDICTION: Boothe goes elsewhere as the Giants re-structure their offensive line.
Mike Patterson, DT -- The veteran played well for the Giants a season ago. I see no reason why Patterson and the Giants can't work out another one-year deal, especially if Joseph leaves. PREDICTION: He stays.
Josh Brown, PK -- As with Stevie Brown, I m surprised a deal between the Giants and the veteran placekicker has not already been reached. PREDICTION: Brown will return.
Curtis Painter, QB -- Why not bring him back with a low-cost, non-guaranteed contract? There will be at least three quarterbacks in camp and there's no reason Painter shouldn't be one of them. Of course, if Ryan Nassib can't beat him out for the backup job that is an entirely different issue.
Peyton Hillis, RB -- If Hillis doesn't find any takers on the open market, and the Giants aren't overstocked with running backs after the bulk of free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft, Hillis could be brought back to compete for a spot as a reserve. You can't build an offense around him, but he showed last season he can be useful.
Louis Murphy, WR -- Why waste the roster spot? Even the 85-man training camp roster spot? Murphy was useless in 2013 and the Giants need to find someone better.
Bear Pascoe, TE -- Great guy, decent blocker, no threat at all as a pass receiver. The Giants need to try and do better.
Shaun Rogers, DT -- His NFL career is probably over.
Keith Rivers, LB -- Played OK in 2013, but can anyone think of a good reason why the Giants would bring him back? I thought not.
Aaron Ross, CB -- I am sure he wants to play somewhere in 2014. It can't be with the Giants, however.
Ryan Mundy, S -- Played pretty well for the Giants in 2013. The Giants need to bring back Stevie Brown and develop Cooper Taylor, meaning no room at the Inn for Mundy.
[NOTE: I did not include tight end Brandon Myers or cornerback Corey Webster, since the Giants already voided their contracts for 2014.]
Restricted Free Agents
Jim Cordle, C -- Not tendered by the Giants. Maybe he gets a chance to come to camp and earn a spot.
Da'Rel Scott, RB -- He's still around?
Henry Hynoski, FB -- Not tendered. If he has no suitors on the free-agent market maybe the Giants give him a chance to take the fullback job away from John Conner, who is now the incumbent.
Mark Herzlich, LB -- No word yet on whether the Giants will tender him. Valuable special teams player, but by now it is pretty clear he is not a starting-caliber NFL middle linebacker. Probably back primarily as a special teams player.
Spencer Paysinger, LB -- Received $1.431 million tender from Giants. He will almost certainly be back.
Exclusive Rights Free Agent
Dallas Reynolds, OL -- Received $570,000 tender from Giants. Could compete for a reserve role at center.