The Giants added to positions of strength early in the 2011 draft, which means their biggest needs weren’t necessarily addressed. That should keep Giants G.M. Jerry Reese busy when the lockout ends.
Here’s our to-do list for Big Blue:
1. Prioritize free agents.
The Giants have as many potential big name free agents as any team in the league. Depending on the league rules, Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, Steve Smith, Barry Cofield, and Mathias Kiwanuka could all be free agents. (This assumes the 2010 rules aren’t brought back.) Brandon Jacobs and Shawn Andrews have contracts that may need to be re-worked.
Reese will have to decide quickly who really needs to be part of the team’s future.
2. Pick a veteran running back.
Bradshaw and Jacobs have said publicly they’d be happy if the Giants kept both of them. It seems unrealistic and not a great use of money, especially because Bradshaw will be due a big contract. Bradshaw is one of the most underrated and versatile backs in the league; his better days are ahead of them. Unless Jacobs takes a big pay cut, we’d drop him.
If all else fails, perhaps Tom Coughlin can work himself into the backfield mix.
3. Re-sign Steve Smith.
He doesn’t have the No. 1 receiver skills of Hakeem Nicks or the speed of Mario Manningham, but Smith is the team’s most consistent wideout. Eli Manning trusts him more than anyone on third downs. The Giants should try to bring back Kevin Boss and Smith, but we’d choose Smith if we had to go with one, especially because he could be cheaper coming off an injury.
4. Check on the health of your centers.
Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert are both coming off surgeries. If they aren’t healthy enough to trust, the team may have to bring in another center. Even after drafting fourth round tackle James Brewer, they may also sign a tackle if they can’t agree with Shawn Andrews on a reduced contract. Otherwise, Andrews looks likely to be cut.
5. Add a linebacker or two.
The defensive line and secondary are deep. But we’d argue the Giants could use a linebacker on the inside or outside. Keith Bulluck looks likely to leave. Versatile pass rusher Mathias Kiwanuka’s future is uncertain heading into free agency coming off a serious injury.
It wouldn’t be a huge shock if the Giants went after a player like Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny to play middle linebacker. Reese is not afraid to spend money in free agency; think Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, and Antrel Rolle.
6. Take back New York.
Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon can talk all the trash he wants. The Jets have only improved late in the season since Rex Ryan has arrived in town. The Giants have struggled to close.