Jon Beason almost certainly saw his career with the New York Giants, and quite possibly his NFL career come to an end on Saturday. Beason was the roster casualty when the Giants activated Jason Pierre-Paul, being placed on injured reserve with ankle and knee injuries.
It can't be a surprise to anyone that Beason didn't make it through the season. This is the fourth time in five seasons, including the last two with the Giants, that Beason will finish a season on injured reserve. It is also the fourth time in five season he has played five or fewer games.
The Giants, desperate for leadership and at least adequate play at the middle linebacker spot, acquired Beason from the Carolina Panthers in a rare mid-season trade in 2013. Beason managed to stay healthy that season. He played 15 games, 12 for the Giants, and parlayed that into a three-year, $17 million contract ($6.03M guaranteed).
To be honest, the contract seemed like a massive overpayment from the day the Giants gave it to Beason. They ended up getting nine games Beason has $2.8 million in base salary left on that contract, plus a $2.2 million signing bonus and $100K workout bonus. That means the Giants would save roughly $5.1 million against the salary cap by cutting Beason. That's a move they will almost certainly make.
Thing is, it was entirely too predictable that the contract -- and the Giants continued attempt to rely on the oft-injured Beason as the quarterback of their defense -- had disaster written all over them.
A foot injury cost Beason most of last season, and if you watched the games you know he shouldn't have been on the field even when he was playing. When Beason injured his knee in a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, some thought I was harsh when I wrote that "Beason is done as a reliable, productive, week-in and week-out NFL player."
I also wrote this:
"I have no idea how long this injury will sideline the veteran linebacker. He might heal quickly, get some preseason practice time and be ready for Week 1 against the Cowboys. He might be out longer than that. Even Beason doesn't really know, saying "knee sprains are weird."
Thing is, even if Beason heals from this injury you have to wonder what will come next. You can be almost certain something will come along. History tells us so.
I hate to be right about something like this, after all we are talking about a man's career here. I knew, however, that I was going to be right. And I am right.
What was GM Jerry Reese thinking when he allowed Beason, representing himself, to bamboozle him into that three-year deal? This is the same Reese who basically shoved respected and reliable veterans Justin Tuck and Antrel Rolle out the door by refusing to budge in negotiations with either of them. Whether you agree or disagree with those decisions, throwing money at Beason when the Giants didn't really need to while taking a hard line with Tuck and Rolle doesn't seem to make sense.
Regardless of that, though, this is about Beason. You do have to feel for him. He WAS a great player early in his career, one of the best middle linebackers in the business. He is a terrific pro, a guy who wants to do things right, who wants to lead, understands what it is to be a pro. His body is just broken down. Even Roger Goodell's softer NFL is a brutal place, and Beason's body is no longer up to the rigors of playing in it.
As I said above, the Giants would seem almost certain to cut ties with Beason, save that cap space and move on in 2016.
What about the rest of this season?
Where does that leave the Giants for the rest of the 2015 season? How will they handle the middle linebacker spot?
Ever since they drafted him in the fifth round a year ago, there has been some chatter about Devon Kennard eventually becoming the Giants' middle linebacker. Kennard, in fact, took some practice reps at that spot in 2014. Could Kennard be the answer at MLB?
I don't expect to see Kennard at middle linebacker, at least not now. I believe you will continue to see the Giants do what they have been doing, which is making due. I think you will see veteran Jasper Brinkley, who got his first significant action last week, split time with Uani 'Unga. Brinkley, 30, is a seven-year veteran who has a reputation as a solid run defender. Perhaps as he plays more he will get more comfortable.
If Kennard were to play in the middle this year the logical thing for the Giants to do would be to wait until Thomas returns from his ankle injury. More than likely, though, we will be watching Brinkly and 'Unga man the middle for the foreseeable future.