The New York Giants will try in 2015 to turn back the defensive clock to a better time, bringing back former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to try to return the defense to the championship form he instilled back in 2007. Could some other old friends return to try to help Spagnuolo do that?
A trio of defensive linemen who helped the Giants win championships during the Tom Coughlin era as head coach are now free agents. Defensive tackles Barry Cofield and Chris Canty were recently cut by the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens, respectively. The Atlanta Falcons apparently have no interest in re-signing Osi Umenyiora, the long-time Giants defensive end.
Could any, or all, of those players be useful parts of Spagnuolo's defense in 2015? Let's look at each.
Osi will turn 34 next season. He is coming off the least productive season since his rookie year, getting only 2.5 sacks. A deeper look at the numbers, though, shows that the Falcons barely used Umenyiora. He played only 292 snaps, 18.25 per game, and had a +4.2 Pro Football Focus grade as a pass rusher. Umenyiora's pass rush productivity percentage of 9.9 was 13th in the league among defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps.
Our recent poll found that 54 percent of 2,637 voters (1,420) do not want Umenyiora back with the Giants.
There is actually quite a bit of irony in Umenyiora's desire to retire as a Giant and, preferably, to return to New York for at least one more season. Despite helping the Giants win two Super Bowls and twice being named to the Pro Bowl, his relationship with GM Jerry Reese was often contentious. Umenyiora, away from the Giants, seems to realize now just how good he had it in New York.
Especially if the Giants do keep Jason Pierre-Paul, as they are expected to, you wonder if there really is a spot for Umenyiora. The Giants have Robert Ayers under contract, and he was the NFL's most productive pass-rushing defensive end last season, per the metrice from Pro Football Focus.
The Giants also have the still-developing Damontre Moore who was drafted, primarily, to be what Umenyiora once was. Bringing back Umenyiora would seem to place another obstacle in Moore's way. There is also young Kerry Wynn, who impressed at the end of last season.
If the right defensive end falls into their laps in the 2015 NFL Draft the Giants -- as they almost always do -- will likely jump at the chance to draft one. Bringing back Umenyiora, at 34, doesn't seem like the logical move.
A Giant from 2009-2012, Canty has been cut after two seasons with the Ravens. Canty, 33 next season, reportedly still wants to play. He remains an effective run defender, grading at +3.2 vs. the run while playing 423 snaps as a defensive end in Baltimore's 3-4 last season.
Spagnuolo, secondary coach for the Ravens last season and a defensive consultant the year before, has seen Canty up close those two seasons. Is it possible that Spagnuolo would recommend Canty as a part of the rotation over Mike Patterson, ineffective last season, or Markus Kuhn, who has never really made much of an impact with the Giants?
Cofield was part of the Giants' defensive tackle merry-go-round. He was drafted to replace William Joseph. Linval Joseph was drafted to replace him. Then, Johnathan Hankins was drafted to replace Linval Joseph. Could Cofield, 31 next season, find his way back to the Giants?
Cofield played in only eight games last season due to ankle and groin injuries -- the first time in nine seasons he had played less than 15 games. Cofield graded +3.2 vs. the run and -4.8 in pass rush last season. He played nose tackle in Washington's 3-4, but from here always seemed a better fit as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Historically, Cofield's PFF numbers are better as a pass rusher than vs. the run.
Really, the same question applies to both Cofield and Canty. Is either of them a better option as a veteran part of the rotation than Patterson, 32 next season. Patterson had a -12.6 PFF grade (-8.7 vs. the run) in 2014.
The Giants -- and most NFL teams -- prefer to add younger players whenever possible. For the Giants, defensive tackle might be exception. Patterson will be 32. Cullen Jenkins is 34. The Giants heavily pursued six-time Pro Bowler Kevin Williams last offseason. The 34-year-old Williams signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
One of them, more likely Canty because of the Spagnuolo connection, might make sense.
As for Umenyiora, while adding pass rush is something we know the Giants always love to do, I just don't see it.
Your thoughts, Giants fans? Would you like to see any, or all, of these guys back with the Giants?