This is part one of a three-part series on free agency for 2004. In part one, we will share our opinions on the Giants' free agent situation. Next week we will look at the offense and potential available free agents who could realistically help the Giants. In part three we will look at the defense in the same manner.
2004 RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
2004 UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Is there anyone who still thinks that it is too early to look ahead to 2004? If there is, we have some prime swampland in Florida you may be interested in purchasing. Obviously, the first step the team will make in returning to respectability will be selecting a new coach, as well as several new assistants. Beyond that, this coming off-season will set the tone for next season. It is clearly evident that the moves a team makes or doesn't make in the off-season with the draft and free agency are critical to the success of the organization. Last year's off-season moves and the ones they didn't make did not work out well and the Giants are now paying the price. The special teams are still a joke. The new placekicker, Mike Hollis, and the long snapper, Ryan Kuehl, are on Injured Reserve. Offensive line woes have caused a myriad of problems for the offense. In retrospect, the decisions not to resign Mike Rosenthal and Jason Whittle look bad. Especially Rosenthal. Overall team depth is poor, especially on the offensive line, at quarterback and at running back.
One of the first steps in approaching free agency is to evaluate and determine which of your own free agents should be re-signed and which ones should be let go. The Giants will have six restricted free agents in March. Restricted free agents can receive offers from other teams, but based on the amount tendered to an RFA, the Giants would receive a draft choice should they decide not to match an RFA offer from another team. Most times, these players are safe, but just last year the Jets lost Laveranues Coles because the Redskins made an obscene RFA offer to Coles and the Jets did not match. Keep in mind; contract demands are also a major factor in who stays and who goes as well. A player with too high of an opinion of himself can price himself off the team. How much cap room they have to work with will be determined by decisions on whom they re-sign and whom they choose to let go.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
DE Frank Ferrara – Is Ferrara a player with great skills? No. What he brings is heart and a blue-collar work ethic. He will never be a starter, but he's not a bad guy to have around; he has versatility and he can give a team some plays in relief. Re-sign? No. If they need him they can always find him later like they did this year.
S Clarence LeBlanc – It is a shame that injuries have kept LeBlanc off the roster for so long. We believe he can play in the league, but at this point he can't be counted on because of his injury background. He may not be able to fully handle the mental aspects of the game. Re-sign? No. Like Ferrara he will be around if needed.
DT Lance Legree – He has made improvements this season. He's really still not starting material, but he could be a contributor who provides solid DT depth. So far he has outplayed first-round pick William Joseph. We aren't sure that is a plus for Legree as much as it is an indictment of Joseph. In a perfect world he would be the fourth DT. Re-sign? Yes. He brings something to the table.
QB Jesse Palmer – Quarterback could become a critical position in the not too distant future. At times this season, Kerry Collins has not played well, yet there is no indication that Palmer is ready to spell Collins when he is in a funk. Time may be running out on Palmer. Once they are mathematically eliminated, they should consider giving Palmer some playing time. Re-sign? Yes, to a minimum contract with the understanding that he will have to compete in camp for the backup QB role.
CB Will Peterson – Currently he's on IR and that is becoming a bit of a concern. They need him to stay healthy. They also need him to rededicate himself to improving his game. At one point he was equal to, if not better than, Will Allen. That is no longer the case; Allen has improved and Peterson has hit a plateau. He is too talented not to be a major defensive player. He and Allen should become one of the best CB tandems in the league. Re-sign? Yes, but he has not earned a "break-the-bank" contract yet. It is also possible, depending on the amount he is tendered, that another team would take a run at him.
TE Marcellus Rivers – He's no Jeremy Shockey. He is not even a Dan Campbell. He is a decent, but not a great receiving TE. If he could only block he would be a very important contributor and he could fill the Campbell role that they sorely miss. He's been around long enough that if he were going to improve his blocking he would have done so by now. Effective blocking is aided by a state of mind. Apparently he doesn't have the desire or the ability to make that leap. Re-sign? Yes, but he is very expendable. If Visanthe Shiancoe ever matures and/or they find a killer blocking TE, Rivers may be in trouble.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
These players will be free to sign with any team with no compensation due the Giants.
C Chris Bober – They could do worse than Bober at center. While he was not an effective tackle, his play at center is good enough. It doesn't look like he will become a Pro-Bowl center, but he's steady and efficient. Part of building a successful line is familiarity and continuity, which will hopefully lead to chemistry and consistency. With Luke Petitgout and Rich Seubert already in place, the Giants need only concern themselves with finding starters at right guard and right tackle. Part of the line's problems is they have players starting who should be reserves. If they found an all-star center it would be great to have Bober as quality depth, but there are bigger fish to fry and they can get by with him. Re-sign? Yes. He will be helped by the fact he is in place and they let Rosenthal and Whittle go last year and that didn't turn out well. They need to build without playing musical chairs on the OL every year.
CB Ralph Brown – We like the fact that Ralph Brown was making progress. He earned the nickel job and was playing well and improving before he was injured. If he has a chance to legitimately compete for a starting job elsewhere, then he may be difficult to re-sign and we wouldn't blame him for leaving. Ideally he would be an excellent third corner behind Allen and Peterson. Re-sign? Yes. Replacing Peterson as a starter is not entirely out of the question especially if Brown continues to improve while Peterson doesn't.
CB Ike Charlton – This is his audition with the Giants. How he plays the rest of the year could determine if he will be re-signed. He is this year's version of Kato Serwanga. Remember Serwanga was a late addition last year who impressed enough to be re-signed. So far, in his career, he has been nothing more than a journeyman corner whose best position may be safety. Re-sign? No. It's unlikely they will catch "Serwanga-lightning" twice. There are hundreds of Ike Charltons out there. Too bad, because with him the Giants lead the league in players named "Ike."
WR Ron Dixon – What a shame. He has so much talent from the neck down. Athletically he has superstar ability. He also represents a classic reason why teams have to be extremely cautious drafting small-school players with high picks. Most times there is a reason why a player with Dixon's enormous physical skills is playing at a school like Lambuth. Drafting players like him can make you look like a genius if they work; however, more often than not they make you look like a dunce. Re-sign? No. He has worn out his welcome and he needs to start his career over somewhere else.
QB Jason Garrett – It's time for the coach on the field to officially move on to coaching. We have always believed that Garrett could follow the logical progression from QB coach to offensive coordinator to head coach. Re-sign? No. He's too old and too rusty.
DT Cornelius Griffin – He can best be described as unfulfilled potential. We don't want to give the impression that he is not a good player because he is. He hustles, he plays hard, and he is very good against the run. He is, however, a disappointment as a rusher. He has such great athletic ability for a big man and we believed he was going to be a dominant inside pass rusher, but that hasn't happened. We would love to see what he might do playing DE. Perhaps he could take better advantage of his physical skills where the traffic on the perimeter is not as great. Re-sign? Yes. This is not the time to give up on him. He should draw attention from other teams.
S Johnnie Harris – Johnnie Harris is a nice player to have around as a reserve safety. He plays well on special teams. When Shaun Williams went on IR and Harris got to play, he made more big plays in three quarters than Omar Stoutmire has made in his two years as starter. He can hit and he plays the run well. His coverage skills aren't great, but that you can live with. Re-sign? Yes, but at the veteran minimum or thereabouts.
DE Kenny Holmes – It is our understanding that Kenny Holmes has voidable years on his contract if he reaches a certain percentage of playing time in 2003. Since he is on IR, it's unclear at this point whether he reached the milestone required to void his contract. His greatest problem is that he came here with high expectations as a high level free agent signing and he never produced to that level. He has improved and he was playing well this season before he was injured. Re-sign? Tough call, but no. Unless they can get him at a bargain price, it may be time for him to move on. It's doubtful his ego will allow him to accept another pay cut.
LB Dhani Jones – He has good size with reasonable athletic ability. His biggest problem is he doesn't make very many plays at a position where most teams like to have their big playmaker. The standard for the weakside LB post today is Derrick Brooks of Tampa Bay. Jones doesn't come close to matching Brooks' production. He's decent against the run and the pass but he doesn't stand out in either phase. He is rarely used as a blitzer and when he is it is without very much success. Re-sign? No. This will be a difficult decision. If he's looking for megabucks then let him go. The decision is also tied to Brandon Short. They probably shouldn't keep both. Finding a weakside playmaker would make this decision somewhat easier.
CB Kato Serwanga – He's been here for a while now and he is helpful on special teams. That makes him worthy of keeping. He's a sub corner who has ability. Though he is not really starting material, he would not embarrass the team if he were forced to play for a period of time. He is a solid role player. Re-sign? Yes. He won't be expensive and he deserves a chance to battle for the fourth CB role in camp. If they were to lose Ralph Brown or Will Peterson his chances would improve.
LB Brandon Short – His hallmark game came this year against the Jets. Unfortunately he hasn't come close to that type of game before or since. He was sensational against the Jets. We have to believe that he can approach that type of performance every week. In our opinion, the new defensive coordinator may be able to use him more effectively; improved schemes could better take advantage of his talent. The problem is his lack of great speed. He usually comes out in passing situations. We also believe that middle linebacker may be the best spot for him. We would not hesitate to consider him in the mix to replace Mike Barrow when that day comes. Re-sign? Yes. Again the decision on Short is tied to the Dhani Jones decision. They can afford to keep one but probably not both.
DE Keith Washington – Like Dorsey Levens, here is another example of a player not being used. We applauded the move of bringing him in, but before Kenny Holmes was injured he languished, for the most part, on the bench or was inactive. We believe Washington can be a good situational rusher and run defender. He can play both sides and should be able keep both DEs fresh without a noticeable fall off in production. Re-sign? Yes. Used properly he will add value.
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