We recently went player-by-player through the various free agents the New York Giants have to make decisions on this off-season to see which players you wanted back in 2015 and which ones you believe the team should part ways with.
Those players, however, are not the only ones GM Jerry Reese and the Giants have to make decisions on. Let's look at five veteran Giants under contract for next season, and in some cases beyond, who could on the roster bubble as the Giants structure the 90-man group they will bring to training camp.
It seems almost certain that Kiwanuka, who turns 32 in March, has reached the end of the line with the Giants. He has been a good, but never great, player since the Giants drafted him in the first round (32nd overall) in 2006. He has done whatever the Giants have asked, probably to the detriment of his individual career success.
Now, though, it is time for the Giants to move on from Kiwanuka. His performance the last two seasons has not been good. His pass rush productivity score of 6.4 percent was 45th of 56 4-3 defensive ends graded in 2014. Robert Ayers (15.2) was No. 1. Damontre Moore (11.3) far exceeded Kiwanuka in the pass rush department. Kiwanuka's -18.3 PFF grade was 98th out of 100 4-3 defensive ends graded.
The severity of the season-ending knee injury Kiwanuka suffered last season really isn't known, and perhaps could render him unable to continue his career, anyway. Kiwanuka is the only current Giants defender who played for Steve Spagnuolo during his first tenure with the Giants, but that familiarity can't be a reason for the Giants to bring him back.
The Giants, per Over The Cap, can save $4.825 million against the salary cap by cutting Kiwanuka. That is what they should do.
Beason enters the second year of a three-year contract, coming off a wasted 2014 season. Beason suffered a foot/toe injury in OTAs and was never close to 100 percent. He tried to play after missing all of training camp and the preseason, but only made it through four ineffective games before shutting it down for good, opting for surgery to fix his injured toe.
What kind of player is the 30-year-old Beason at this point in his career? He certainly isn't the sideline-to-sideline do-everything All-Pro of his younger days with the Carolina Panthers? After Achilles tendon and knee injuries limited him to only five games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and after a foot/toe injury cost him most of 2014, how much athleticism does Beason have left? Is he a guy the Giants can count on to both be healthy enough and athletic enough to anchor their defense in 2015? If they decide the answer is no, do they actually have a replacement? These are all questions the Giants have to ponder with Beason.
Almost certainly, the answer will be that the Giants will keep Beason, install him at middle linebacker, count on him to be the leader of Steve Spagnuolo's defense, and simply cross their fingers that they can get a healthy season out of him. The Giants don't really have a better option at this point.
Jameel McClain, who will will talk about next, did the best he could but he really isn't a 4-3 middle linebacker. Devon Kennard could work in there, but then you aren't taking advantage of his ability to be an edge rusher against the pass or to set the edge against the run.
The belief here is that Beason returns for 2015. If they did cut him, the Giants would have $3.533 against the cap.
We just mentioned McClain, so let's talk about him now. The Giants signed him to be their strong-side linebacker and to provide veteran leadership, not to play in the middle. McClain ended up with a team-leading 116 tackles, which was also a career high for the seven-year veteran from Syracuse University. His PFF grade, though, was -12.4 (-9.4 vs. the run) and his run-stop percentage of 7.0 was 24th of 35 middle linebackers who played at least 50 percent of their team's defensive snaps.
The Giants could save $3.1 million of the $3.4 million McClain is scheduled to make in 2015 by cutting him.
The view here is that the Giants should try to bring McClain back, but that they should re-negotiate a lesser contract with him. A Beason-Kennard-McClain triumvirate at linebacker doesn't seem like a good idea -- not enough speed and athleticism in that trio to handle today's offenses. McClain should be brought back as depth, insurance for Beason and Kennard, both of whom have a history of injuries.
Both Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin said recently that they view 2014 second-round pick Weston Richburg, who played left guard as a rookie, as a center. Both men stopped short of proclaiming that Richburg would be the Giants' starting center in 2015, but let's assume that will be the case. We know what happens when you make assumptions, of course, but this seems like a pretty safe one.
What, then, becomes of Walton? The five-year veteran is entering the second year of a two-year, $6 million contract. The Giants could save $2.5 million against the cap by cutting Walton. The view here is that is exactly what they should do.
Walton's inability to get a push in the run game was a problem in 2014. He had a -19.6 PFF grade (-11.4 in run blocking). If Richburg is going to play center you can't pay Walton $2.5 million to sit on the bench. Even if he were to take a pay cut, he has never played anywhere but center and thus offers no positional versatility -- critical for a reserve.
For me, Walton should be one-and-done with the Giants.
Jenkins, who turns 34 on Tuesday, is entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million deal. If the Giants were to cut the veteran defensive tackle they would save $2.25 million against the salary cap. Should they do that, or should they hang on to Jenkins?
This one is a tough call. The Giants finished 30th in the league against the run in 2014, and inadequate defensive tackle play was a big part of the reason. Jenkins, an 11-year veteran, has always been known as a better pass rusher than run defender. Last season was no exception, as he graded -7.1 vs. the run and +6.6 in the pass rush.
A decision on Jenkins is complicated because we don't know how the Giants view Mike Patterson Markus Kuhn. The view here is both of those guys should be ex-Giants in 2015. How big of a role the Giants think Jay Bromley is ready to handle is another question, as is how they will be able to supplement the position in free agency or the 2015 NFL Draft.
The view here is that I would keep Jenkins, but I would hope to push him more into a complementary role, with Bromley or other new acquisitions getting more responsibility.
Kiwanuka -- Cut
Beason -- Keep
McClain -- Keep
Walton -- Cut
Jenkins -- Keep
In the comments please list the five players and let us know which ones you would keep or cut.