It is Rivalry Week here at SB Nation and we all know how much contempt the NFC East holds for each other! The NFC East has some of the strongest rivalries that date back decades; some memories make me sick (Matt Dodge punt), while others make me smile with nostalgia (R.W. McQuarters interception). Nevertheless, games against Washington, Dallas, and Philadelphia are always circled on the schedule, and the difference between wins and losses in those matchups are so significant.
In 1993, the NFL introduced a more modern free agency that would give players so much more leverage over their careers than the teams that originally drafted them. This changed the landscape of the entire leagues and helped mitigate the existence of long-term dynasties (unless your name is Belichick).
There have been many names that have played on multiple NFC East teams; guys like Omar Stoutmire, Kevin Ogletree, and Keenan Robinson come to mind. Even Golden Tate stopped for a cup of coffee in Philadelphia before coming to New York. This list is going to go over the five most impactful players that the Giants acquired who used to play for a division rival, since the year 2000. The rivals consist of Dallas, Washington, and Philadelphia, so the Cardinals will not be on the list … sorry, Lomas Brown! I’ll apologize in advance to Giants’ current offensive coordinator Jason Garrett who is not on the list, but used to back up Kerry Collins after his time in Dallas.
Antonio Pierce, NYG 2005-2009
Pierce was a pivotal piece to Steve Spagnuolo’s 2007 championship defense. He was a former underrated free agent by Washington, out of Arizona in 2001. Pierce was able to establish himself as a leader in a locker room that consisted of veterans like Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Amani Toomer. In that 2007 season, Pierce made 102 tackles, 8 for a loss, and had 8 passes defensed. He had more than 100 tackles three out of five seasons in New York, finishing his time with the Giants at 491 total tackles, 34 for a loss, 7 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and 33 passes defensed. Pierce retired after the 2009 season; although his time with the Giants was marred towards the end, due to the Plaxico Burress situation, he’s still remembered fondly and he should be! He did excellent things for the community, was a big reason why the team won a Super Bowl, and he started from humble beginnings as an undrafted player to a division rival that only got one solid year from him, due to the depth of Washington’s linebacker corps. A complete steal by Ernie Accorsi. I’ll always revere the excellent tackle in the NFC Championship game on third-and-8.
Chris Canty, NYG 2009-2012
Canty is a native New Yorker, who was signed from Dallas to a six-year, $42 million deal, with $17.25 million guaranteed. Canty is a 6-foot-7, 317-pound, man who was tasked to be a monster presence on the defensive line next to Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Barry Cofield. Canty was injured in his first year, but by 2011 he was a dominating part of an effective defensive line; he finished the 2011 Super Bowl campaign with 47 tackles, 11 for a loss, 4 sacks, and 32 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Canty was able to indulge in one of the greatest feats a football player can experience with a franchise - a Super Bowl title, and he played a big part in Perry Fewell’s defense. Canty finished his time in New York with 125 tackles, 21 for a loss, 9 sacks, and 4 passes defensed. Now he’s a big radio personality in the greater New York City area.
Jeff Feagles, NYG 2003-2009
Special teams players have been neglected long enough in my articles! Feagles has to make this list because he was so pivotal in controlling field position during the early Tom Coughlin years, and, of course, during the Super Bowl XLII season. Feagles was on the Eagles from 1990-1993 but ended up with the Giants at the perfect time. In his 7 seasons with the Giants, Feagles had a net punting average of 41.2 yards. He was excellent in short punt situations and would do a solid job pinning opponents deep in their parts of the field. Feagles became a fan favorite of the Giants and he holds the record of most consecutive games played in the NFL at 352 games; the guy never missed a start. He finishes third all-time in most games played behind fellow special teamers, Morten Anderson and Gary Anderson.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, NYG 2014-2017
Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the “Dream Team” additions that the Philadelphia Eagles made in 2011. He only spent two years in Philadelphia before playing one season in Denver, and then being signed by the Giants to a five-year, $35 million contract, with $11.98 million guaranteed in 2014. Before his time in Philadelphia, Rodgers-Cromartie was in Arizona and played against the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. He was a freak athlete, with incredible length, quickness, and lower body explosiveness. Rodgers-Cromartie handled slot and boundary duties for the Giants, and he was rather effective. In his four years with the team, he recorded 193 tackles, 9 for a loss, 47 passes defensed, 11 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. In 2016, he made the Pro Bowl with the Giants after having 6 interceptions and 21 passes defensed while testing incredibly according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. His time with the team didn’t end ceremoniously during the Ben McAdoo era, but he was a key piece on a defense that carried the Giants to the playoffs in 2016.
Cullen Jenkins, NYG 2013-2015
I was tempted to give this last spot to Martellus Bennett, but he only played one season with Big Blue, so I went with Jenkins. A former Eagles defensive tackle in 2011-2012, Jenkins came to the Giants and provided good interior pressure for the defense. In his three seasons with the Giants, he had 91 total pressures, 72 tackles, 13 for a loss, 9 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He never really jumped off the screen, but he was receiving significant snaps in a solid rotation.
Getting “discarded” talent from division rivals is good for several reasons. Lightning can be found in some of these younger players when they develop and grow more after their second contracts; these players can also offer insight into their former teams and possibly help their current team construct the right game plan to limit their former coaching staffs and teammates. We’ve seen big, high profile, inter-division flips in the NFC East; Terrell Owens (Eagles to Cowboys), DeMarco Murray (Cowboys to Eagles), and Donovan McNabb (Eagles to Washington) come to mind. Herschel Walker played for three NFC East teams throughout his dominant NFL career (Cowboys, Eagles, Giants). Turnover happens, and it’s important. The fact of the matter is no one views Antonio Pierce and Chris Canty as Washington or Dallas entities ... they view them as New York Giants because that’s where they won. Your initial team doesn’t matter if you can help earn an evasive title for another city. In Pierce and Canty’s case, that city was New York.