Mort also reports that Nicks " is willing to weigh a one-year contract to prove his past two seasons were aberrations, league sources said."
So, a couple of things on this:
1. If Nicks really can offer documented proof that past leg injuries haven't sapped his speed and explosiveness, good for him, because there's none on his 2013 game tape.
2. If physical problems weren't limiting Nicks in 2013, and I were an interested team, I'd have a ton of questions about what was limiting him. If he was as healthy as he says he was, then it's reasonable to conclude that we were watching a player give somewhat minimal effort on the field because he was overly concerned about getting injured in his walk year. And if he's that kind of player (which nothing in his previous history ever indicated he was), that's going to turn off a team or two.
3. The one-year deal thing could happen with a lot of high-profile guys coming off down years. B.J. Raji is talking about one with the Packers, for instance. With the salary cap set to rise dramatically in the next two seasons, players know there's going to be even more money in the pool for them next year. If you're willing to bet on yourself, why not take a one-year deal and hit the market again a year from now after a better season? Nicks would only be 27 when next year's market opened.
The problem is, Nicks just had a lousy contract year, and signing a one-year deal would put him in the same position he occupied in 2013. And who'd want that player again? That's a player that gets offensive coordinators fired.
I have been saying for a while that, if Nicks really is healthy, someone's going to get a very good player for next year and beyond. My sense with regard to the Giants is that they're far enough down on Nicks due to his disappointing 2013 season that they won't be the team that signs him. I think a team or two will be willing to pay for the player Nicks was earlier in his career on the belief that, at age 26, he can still be that player again. So he'll probably get a nice deal somewhere. Other than East Rutherford.
On the day prospective free agents can begin negotiations with NFL teams, Hakeem Nicks has circulated medical assurances to all clubs from two of the nation's leading specialists that past foot and knee injuries should not inhibit the wide receiver's 2014 season, according to a league source.
Nicks' final two seasons with the New York Giants, with whom his productivity dipped dramatically since they selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft, were plagued by the injuries. He officially becomes an unrestricted free agent Tuesday, the first day of the new league year.
Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed foot surgery on a Jones fracture that was repaired with a screw in late May 2012, wrote to teams that a recent MRI provided no discernible ankle or foot problems that would prohibit Nicks from resuming an active career.
Dr. James Andrews also wrote a hearty endorsement related to Nicks' PCL surgery in February 2013 for a left knee injury he suffered in September 2012. Andrews declared Nicks' knee to be "completely healed" and does not have "any hesitation" in recommending teams to consider him.
Copies of the doctors' letters were obtained through a league source.
Nicks is receptive to returning to the Giants. If he does not re-sign with New York, he is hopeful of finding a team with a proven quarterback.
He is willing to weigh a one-year contract to prove his past two seasons were aberrations, league sources said.
While he has not developed into a starter, Herzlich has been a useful player for the Giants. He's one of their best special-teams players and led the team with 14 special-teams tackles in 2013, and he's proven to be a useful reserve linebacker as well. Herzlich was a restricted free agent, so the Giants could have tendered him a contract and seen whether anyone else tried to sign him, but instead he's locked up for 2014.
Earlier this week, the Giants tendered restricted free-agent linebacker Spencer Paysinger, which means he's almost certain to be back in 2014, and they hosted recently released former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit. McClain is a potential fallback at middle linebacker if they don't sign Beason, but they would prefer him as a strongside linebacker with Beason (or some better Beason replacement) in the middle. McClain has spoken to Buffalo and other teams as well.
The Giants have until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday to sign Beason if they want to keep him off the open market. While teams are allowed to start contacting the agents for other teams' free agents at noon ET on Saturday, Beason is representing himself. Therefore, the rules prohibit him from talking to any team but the Giants until the start of the new league year, which is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Yeah, that's right. Same guy Todd had the Giants taking in Mock 2.0. Boooooring, right?
Well, maybe yes and maybe it's just the exact right pick for them. Ever think of that? Lewan is a tremendous call for a team that had major offensive line issues in 2013 and counts offensive line among its most pressing short-term and long-term needs. Yes, it would be the second year in a row they spent their first-round pick on an offensive lineman, but to that I would say, "Good! It's about time they prioritized it again."
Lewan could start at right tackle with 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh moving inside to guard, where he'd be a monster. Or Lewan (or Pugh) could play left tackle if Will Beatty's 2013 struggles were to repeat themselves and the Giants had to move on from Beatty. The point is getting more talent in the pipeline on the offensive line, and Lewan is a high-end talent who'd represent good value at No. 12.
Here are a few guys still on Todd's board at 12 who would also make some degree of sense:
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. Not a need position to the extent that some are, but if Linval Joseph left in free agency, there'd be room for Donald in the defensive line rotation, and he is a straight-up monster.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. This is the guy Mel Kiper Jr. keeps giving the Giants in his mocks, though Mel is well aware that the Giants haven't drafted a first-round linebacker since Carl Banks in 1984. Mel is right that Mosley would make a lot of sense as a long-term solution at a position of continual need, especially if Jon Beason isn't re-signed.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC. With the top wideouts off the board, Lee is the best one left, and the Giants need a Hakeem Nicks replacement.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame. Same reason Lewan's a good pick. Plus, Martin could be a right-away starter at guard.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. Major passing-game weapon for Eli Manning, all-around athletic freak, and a long-term answer at a position where the Giants keep turning to short-term fixes.
Key free agents: DT Linval Joseph, LB Jon Beason, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, RB Andre Brown, TE Brandon Myers, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Trumaine McBride
Where they stand: The Giants have 23 unrestricted free agents and a crying need to rebuild an offense that bottomed out around quarterback Eli Manning in 2013. They need to find a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end and at least two starting offensive linemen. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is likely to have some input in the kinds of players they pursue in free agency because he's installing a relatively new offense in New York for the first time in 10 years. They will also need to plug holes on defense if they don't re-sign Beason, Tuck or Joseph. And they could use an upgrade over McBride at cornerback.
What to expect: The Giants are trying to lock up Beason in advance of free agency but haven't yet. Once the market opens Tuesday, expect them to be aggressive in their pursuit of interior offensive linemen. If they find an upgrade at center, they can gain significant cap room by designating David Baas a June 1 cut. But they will go after at least one free-agent guard (Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asamoah, guys like that) and possibly more. Improving the protection of Manning is a primary goal for the Giants this offseason. Beefing up the interior of the line would also help them re-establish the run game. As they pursue wide receivers, keep an eye on players like Dexter McCluster and Golden Tate, who could help the Giants' weak return units.
"I think they finally realize there are areas that need to be addressed," the former offensive coordinator said of the obvious deficiencies in line depth and lack of talent at other positions that led to last season's 7-9 record. "I certainly have expressed those concerns for a number of years. It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when it was going to happen. It really started happening the year before and we were able to fight through it a little bit, but this year the confluence of injuries were just too many."
Gilbride, who was at the PKD Foundation Benefit in Manhattan Thursday night, said he thinks the 2014 Giants can turn it around, but that will start with the front office and free agency, which begins next week.
"They have to get some players," he said. "If the players come back, if [Chris] Snee comes back healthy and [David] Baas comes back healthy. The running back situation is a little scary -- they have to get somebody there. But if they can get somebody there and if [Kevin] Boothe comes back, the inside three will be stable. I know they're going to look for a tight end. There are a lot of holes that need to be filled."
Gilbride "retired" at the end of the 2013 season, though comments made shortly thereafter by Giants owner John Mara indicated he might have been fired had he not quit on his own. He's obviously quite proud of his overall body of work as an NFL coach and maybe a little bit bitter about the way it ended. According to The Star-Ledger's Conor Orr, Gilbride was upset over Mara's day-after-the-season crack about "I don't know why it took us so long to figure out that Jerrel Jernigan could play." And Gilbride also didn't like to hear GM Jerry Reese saying it was time for a change:
“I’m kind of surprised to hear him say that,” Gilbride said when asked about general manager Jerry Reese saying it was time for a change. “No one had figured that offense out for 24 years. To think that they figured it out this year would be pretty ludicrous. I think it was pretty obvious what the problems were. We had a confluence of injuries, we were very weak on the offensive line. We had some guys who struggled. We started six different offensive tailbacks, three different fullbacks, three different right guards, four different centers … You’re not going to have anything (with that). You can say it’s the offense, but it’s pretty clear what the problem was.”
The Giants are moving on with Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator after Gilbride held the job for seven seasons. His record does stand on its own, as he indicated it should. He has received too much of the blame for what went on with the Giants in 2013, as coordinators often do. But I think you can make the case that it was time for a new voice in the meeting room without also denigrating Gilbride's accomplishments. The offense looked just fine when it was winning the second of two Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin-era Super Bowls just 25 months ago.
During this negotiating period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than the player's current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player's current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.
So what does all of this mean? The Giants want Beason back, but to this point they have not been able to reach agreement on a new contract. The fact that he's emailing other teams certainly seems to indicate that he's not overly thrilled with what they're offering. But it appears as though they'll have a little extra time to convince him. While agents for other free agents spend this weekend and Monday in contact with teams, Beason won't be able to talk to anyone but the Giants until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
I still think Beason returns to the Giants on a deal that pays him somewhere around $4 million a year, maybe with some incentives. But the longer it goes without getting done, and the closer it gets to Tuesday, the more you wonder.
Much is going to change on this roster, but as it stands today, the Giants really need just about everything. They could lose guys like Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck off their defensive line and all three levels of their defense can use a shot in the arm.
The same is true on offense, where they are currently weak at every spot with the exception of quarterback. And are we even so sure that they are truly "strong" at quarterback right now?
Whom does McShay have the Giants drafting at No. 12? Let's take a look:
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With regard to the New York Giants, we discussed on Wednesday's "NFL Insiders" some potential targets for them at running back. I listed four -- Houston's Ben Tate, Indianapolis' Donald Brown, Oakland's Rashad Jennings and the Giants' own Andre Brown. But there are surely more possibilities, as the running back market is tough to predict. Most teams don't feel compelled to spend big resources on the position, and the Giants are no exception -- especially two years after drafting David Wilson in the first round and still not knowing for sure how that's going to pan out.
What the Giants will be looking for is a back who can handle a starter's workload (in the event that Wilson and his surgically repaired neck cannot) and who can help in the passing game -- as a receiver and, even more importantly, as a blocker. So here's a look at a few guys who could catch their eye and what they might bring to the table, with a little help from Bill Polian's free-agent tracker:
Ben Tate: He's a physical, north/south runner who's likely to be the highest-paid back on the market (which could take him out of the mix for the Giants). Looks like a guy who could carry a starter's workload, but there are other guys who can help better in the passing game.
Donald Brown: He ranks No. 1 on Bill's list of running backs after outplaying Trent Richardson as the Colts' No. 1 back in 2013. He's also a willing pass-protector, which will appeal.
Rashad Jennings: Had a big game against the Giants in Week 10 and looks ready to assume a starter's role somewhere. Some seem to think, however, that he's a liability as a blocker. Possible he just wasn't asked to do it much in Oakland.
Andre Brown/Peyton Hillis: They finished the season as the Giants' backfield tandem and could be brought back in similar roles if things don't work out in the search for upgrades.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Question is how much he has left. The Jones-Drew of three years ago would be perfect for what the Giants do. But it's been a while since we've seen that guy.
Knowshon Moreno: Broncos unlikely to just let him leave. Part of the reason he got and kept the job there was his ability to pick up the blitz on passing downs for Peyton Manning.
LeGarrette Blount: Was this just a Bill Belichick miracle, unlikely to be repeated elsewhere? Or was it a talented guy fulfilling his potential at long last? Blount has appealing size.
There are more names, but you get the idea. The Giants are going hunting for running backs. We shall see what they turn up.
Because McClain was released with time left on his contract, he is eligible to sign with teams prior to the opening of the new league year -- i.e., he doesn't have to wait until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. McClain visited with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday and told reporters in Buffalo that he was visiting the Giants on Thursday:
“This is the first visit and then I go to the Giants,” said McClain. “I’ve got more scheduled, but I tell my agent to tell me the day before. I don’t want to be wrapping my mind around too many ideas. I’m more like a get the information and go guy.”
McClain turns 29 in July. The Ravens released him because doing so saves them $3.2 million against the salary cap this year and because they believed they have in-house replacements ready. He's an inside linebacker who's moved around in the Ravens' 3-4 defensive front, so he could potentially play the middle for the Giants if they don't bring back Beason or he could play one of the outside spots. He played only 10 games in 2013 as he was returning from a spinal cord injury, but he's fully healthy at this point and actively looking for work. He said he has other visits scheduled as well.
The Giants also tendered restricted free-agent linebacker Spencer Paysinger this week, ensuring that they would be able to hold onto him for another year.
Per fitness enthusiast Eb Samuel of the New York Daily News, the Giants have decided to put a right-of-first-refusal tender of $1.431 million on linebacker Spencer Paysinger. This allows the Giants to match any offer Paysinger might get on the open market and establishes what they'll pay him if he doesn't get any. The risk is that they forfeit the right to draft-pick compensation if they lose Paysinger to another team (since they'd be making the choice to do so), but Paysinger isn't likely to draw much interest. This basically allows the Giants to budget for a guy they'd be happy to start at one of their outside linebacker spots but aren't averse to replacing if they find better options.
Earlier in the week, the Giants decided not to tender fullback Henry Hynoski or center Jim Cordle. That doesn't mean those guys are gone; simply that they can be free agents if they so choose. The Giants like fullback John Conner, and would bring back Hynoski to compete with him in camp at a very low price, but they've decided they're OK if Hynoski wants to look elsewhere. Likewise, they don't hate Cordle, but as they work on rebuilding the interior of their offensive line, they recognize him as a replaceable backup piece.
The Giants' other restricted free agent is linebacker Mark Herzlich, who likely isn't a huge priority unless they fail to re-sign Jon Beason and can't find any other options on the market at middle linebacker. We all know the Giants don't spend big on linebacker, so if they fail to sign Beason, it's unlikely they'd spend big to replace him. They might decide to give Herzlich another shot and, if he doesn't work out, find someone during the season the way they got Beason for a seventh-round pick in early October last year. But I think they'll sign Beason and it'll be moot.
I particularly liked KC Joyner's list of possible free-agent targets, which include guard Geoff Schwartz, tight end Jermichael Finley, and wide receiver Dexter McCluster. As KC mentions, McCluster doesn't offer much as a downfield threat, but it's possible that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has a use for a guy who can make people miss after the catch the way McCluster can. Also, he would instantly elevate the Giants' kick-return game from one of the worst in the league to one of the most dangerous.
Some teams did use the franchise player and transition player designations, however. Washington franchised pass-rusher Brian Orakpo, which means he'll be around to torment Will Beatty at least two more times. And the Cleveland Browns used the transition player designation on free-agent center Alex Mack, which more or less takes the best free-agent center off the market.
I don't know whether the Giants were planning to make a run at Mack, and truth be told they still could. The problem is, Cleveland has the right to match any offer, so if the Giants agree with Mack on a contract, the Browns could simply give him the same contract and he would remain with the team. The Giants are OK on cap room, with about $18 million right now and more on the way once Chris Snee's and David Baas' salaries get cut and/or come off the books. But the Browns have about $30 million and have the incentive and the wherewithal to keep Mack. They also would forfeit their right to draft-pick compensation for him if they let him sign elsewhere. Point is, Mack is almost certain to be back in Cleveland in 2014.
The Giants will look at free-agent guards once free agency opens next week, and it's possible they'll look for a center as well. Baas is under contract but is a strong candidate for a pay cut or an outright release, though the more significant cap savings would come if they cut him after June 1. Much of the Giants' decision at center could have to do with Baas' health, but even if he's fully recovered from the neck injury that ended his season, he could be replaced for salary and production reasons.