The Giants off season requires an in-depth look at last season's struggles and where to spend money judiciously to fix them. Recognizing that the game is dictated by control of the line of scrimmage, last season's offensive line was simply a disaster for the New York Giants. Eli Manning was sacked 39 times, and perhaps more damning was the seemingly constant pressure Manning endured, culminating with the veteran quarterback symbolically limping off the field in Washington. Once a hallmark of physical Giants football, New York's offensive line was a major liability in 2013. With only 2013 first round draft pick Justin Pugh firmly guaranteed a position next season, GM Jerry Reese has some serious groundwork to do to fill the remaining four positions. One option he may consider is Kansas City Chiefs tackle Branden Albert. The Chiefs refused to offer Albert the franchise tag, opening the door for the Giants to sign him as an unrestricted free agent. One attractive quality Albert possesses is his durability. With Will Beatty suffering a broken leg, and David Diehl/David Bass missing most of the 2013 season with injuries themselves, the Giants offensive line struggled to maintain the cohesion that is time-tested to create effective offensive line play. Albert's durability is something that could certainly help the Giants. Albert has played in no fewer than 12 games and has been a starting tackle with the Chiefs since his rookie season in 2008. Moreover, his veteran presence is consistent with the Giants desire for a veteran based unit because aside from Justin Pugh, no Giants lineman had less than 6 years of NFL experience.
While Albert made the Pro Bowl last year; it was his seventh season in the NFL. While some analysts say Albert found his stride, others argue that it is rare that an offensive lineman improves at this stage of his career and that the mileage associated with the trenches is generally when injuries begin to occur more frequently. Last season may have been the start of this period for Albert as he missed four games with a leg injury.
Another critical element of analyzing Albert's potential value to the Giants hinges on comparing the system from which he will be coming from and whether he will adapt well and be suited for the Giants offensive philosophy. Last season, Kansas City became a run-first, physical offensive unit and made passing secondary to their offensive success. In 2013 the Giants played a more spread offense, utilizing passing as their primary option for moving the ball. Historically however, the Giants have been a smash-mouth physical team so Albert may provide the Giants more diversification offensively.
Ultimately, it is impossible to ignore Albert's Pro-Bowl quality play and his durability. Given the Giants' offensive line woes from last season, Albert appears to be a good short-term acquisition. Even if he only plays twelve games that would be a vast improvement from last season's revolving personnel shuffle.
In looking at the broader picture, between free agency and the upcoming draft, there are multiple options for the Giants to revamp their offensive line. With the No. 12 pick in April, and with a short-term investment in Branden Albert, the Giants have the opportunity to overhaul their declining offensive line in short order.