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2016 NFL free agency: Eric Weddle, George Iloka, Tashaun Gipson top safety options

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Let's break down the safeties on the free-agent market.

Eric Weddle
Eric Weddle
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL free agency signing period begins in a week. We have been profiling potential targets for the New York Giants. Let's turn our attention to specific positions. We will start with one of the weakest position groups for the Giants 2015 -- safety.

The situation

You know this drill, Giants fans. It's a sad state of affairs at the safety position. Safeties are supposed to be the last line of defense and just about the only thing Giants' safeties prevented last season -- really the last two years -- was the Giants from having a good pass defense. It's downright awful.

The Giants have 2015 second-round pick Landon Collins, who looks like he can be a quality player provided the Giants use him closer to the line of scrimmage rather than as a center fielder. After that? Well, they have work to do. Injuries forced the desperate Giants to turn to veteran stop-gaps Brandon Meriweather and Craig Dahl last season. Neither was very good, and neither should be back in 2016.

The Giants have a bunch of young, unproven guys coming back from injuries.

Nat Berhe might be the best bet to play a role in 2016, but how do we know for sure? Bennett Jackson has had micro-fracture knee surgery, a torn ACL and spent two full seasons on IR. It's impossible to count on him. The drafting of Mykkele Thompson in the fifth round last year raised eyebrows, then he tore an Achilles tendon. Is Thompson really an NFL player? Again, how would we know?

The free agents

Eric Berry, the pipe dream signing of the free-agent class of safeties, won't be a Giant. The Kansas City Chiefs made sure he won't go anywhere by placing the franchise tag on him.

Eric Weddle -- The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro is easily the most accomplished player in this class of free-agent safeties. In many ways, he could be precisely what the Giants need -- a veteran presence who can play center field. He is, however, coming off his worst season since he was a rookie in 2007. At 31, you have to ask if he is decline. If he isn't already, how long before he will be? Thus, how much of an investment can you make in him?

John Gennaro of SB Nation's Chargers blog, Bolts From The Blue told us he believes Weddle can play a few more seasons at a high level:

"I think he's probably got three years left as one of the top 2-3 safeties in the league and is smart enough to still be well above average for a couple of years after that if he wants. The issues in 2015 were almost entirely due to effort as he was doing his best to protect himself from injury for the upcoming free agency period. As a Chargers fan, it hurt to watch, but it should not reflect any sort of diminished skills," Gennaro wrote via e-mail.

George Iloka -- A four-year veteran who will be 26 next season, Iloka appears to be a player on the rise. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, though, is he the right fit to play alongside Collins? Most believe he can play free safety, but he has played more strong safety thus far in his career. [More about Iloka]

Tashaun Gipson -- A true center field type safety, the question with Gipson is why he was so good for the Cleveland Browns in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl and so awful for them in 2015 when his coverage scores from Pro Football Focus were among the worst at his position. [More about Gipson]

Rodney McLeod -- McLeod, 25, made the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and has been the starting free safety for the past three years. McLeod might be available with the Rams entire secondary headed to free agency and Los Angeles having chosen to franchise tag cornerback Trumaine Johnson.  Walter Football ranks McLeod No. 39 on its list of the top 90 free agents. SB Nation says of McLeod:

"He has improved every season he's been in the league and last season put up 82 combined tackles, three forced fumble, a fumble recovery and one interception. He is definitely a starting-caliber safety and should get paid as such."

David Bruton -- A dark-horse option, the seven-year veteran has never been a starter for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. He played more than 400 snaps for the Broncos this past season and is expected to hit free agency seeking a team that will give him an opportunity to start. Bruton might not be the Giants' first choice, but perhaps he could be a less expensive fallback option.

Others to be aware of

Reggie Nelson of the Bengals made the Pro Bowl as a free safety last season, but he is 32. Walter Thurmond played two games for the Giants in 2014, signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles last season expecting to play corner, and wound up at free safety. He did a nice job and is a free agent again. Isa Abdul-Quddus of the Detroit Lions has played both safety spots as a part-time player. Rashad Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals just turned 30, but he's an experienced free safety and reportedly a good cover guy so we will add him to the list. Louis Delmas has been a starter for six years with the Miami Dolphins.