When the free agency period began on March 3, there was a general opinion circulating that the New York Giants might be better off not offering any of their unrestricted free agents a new contract.
After all, the team was 4-12 after mile-high expectations going into the season, and a team that can produce that kind of collapse probably doesn't have many veterans worth keeping.
So it has appeared to go that way thus far. The defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin opted for an offer from Washington, for considerably more money than the Giants indicated they would pay him. Weak-side linebacker Dhani Jones, also a starter, marched off to yet another NFC East rival, Philadelphia, having priced himself out of the Giants' plans. Center Chris Bober, who was "unofficially" replaced last weekend when the Giants signed Shaun O'Hara, a center-guard from Cleveland, signed with Kansas City.
A day after Jones left, the Giants signed weak-side linebacker Barrett Green (son of former Giants safety Joe Green) from Detroit for considerably less money than Jones and his agent had demanded.
There are others who appear headed out of town, such as defensive end Kenny Holmes, a disappointment in his three years with the Giants after signing as an unrestricted free agent from Tennessee and strong-side linebacker Brandon Short, who seems to have his heart set on his boyhood hometown team, the Steelers.
In addition to O'Hara and Green, the Giants have also signed UFAs Fred Robbins, a defensive tackle from Minnesota; and Carlos Emmons, a strong-side linebacker and Philadelphia's Defensive MVP last season.
The philosophy evidently being employed by general manager Ernie Accorsi is that there are a few unrestricted free agents possibly worth re-signing, but only at so-called bargain basement prices. That list might include cornerback Ralph Brown, safety Johnnie Harris and possibly Bober.
Or, as the late general manager George Young (Accorsi's mentor) once told Pro Bowl linebacker Brad Van Pelt, who had come in without an agent seeking a substantial raise: "Brad, you're right. You are one of the top three outside linebackers in the league. But we were 3-12-1 with you last year. I think we could have done that without you."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--As expected, the Giants released middle linebacker Mike Barrow and, in the process, will save more than $5 million in salary cap money immediately.
"This was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make," general manager Ernie Accorsi said, regarding the release of Barrow. "Mike was one of our best free-agent signings (from Carolina in 2000), but when a player's salary gets so high that it strangles your opportunities to improve in multiple areas, it has to happen. We worked for several weeks to see if we could reach some agreement on restructuring his contract."
--DE Michael Strahan, the Giants' six-time Pro Bowl star, has indicated he will seek a councilman's seat in his home town of Montclair, N.J., and added that part of his campaign would be the preserving and protecting of the many historic sites in the old Revolutionary War town in Essex County. He should have an interest in the old and historic estates -- he lives in one.
--New head coach Tom Coughlin still hasn't met with most of the players, perhaps a ploy to instill a sort of disciplinary atmosphere on his part. But he did have a 20-minute meeting with RB Tiki Barber, whose problem appears to be frequent fumbling, not gaining yards. ... And Coughlin did say he would be "very interested" in seeing what he can do with Ron Dayne, the Heisman Trophy winner for 1999 and the team's first round pick (11th overall) in the 2000 draft. Dayne has not been productive, and last year spent all 16 games on the Game Inactive list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am really looking forward to a new start with a new coaching staff. The Lions were going in one direction and I was going in another. It's disappointing but this is a business and live goes on." -- Barrett Green, recently signed weak-side linebacker as an UFA from Detroit.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: The overwhelming need now was at defensive tackle until Fred Robbins was signed, but the team still might look to address the area after losing Cornelius Griffin and Keith Hamilton. Also high on the list is the offensive line, fouled by injuries to left guard Rich Seubert, left tackle Luke Petitgout and ineffective play from tackle Ian Allen. Rookie David Diehl started every game at right guard.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (7): CB Ralph Brown; QB Jason Garrett; S Johnnie Harris; DE Kenny Holmes; TE Tony McGee; CB Kato Serwanga; LB Brandon Short.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): DE Frank Ferrara; S Clarence LeBlanc; CB Reggie Stephens.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (4): DT Lance Legree; QB Jesse Palmer; CB William Peterson; TE Marcellus Rivers.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (3): OT Ian Allen; RB Delvin Joyce; OG Omar Smith.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: TE Darnell Dinkins; DE Keith Washington.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Carlos Emmons; LB Barrett Green; C Shaun O'Hara; DT Fred Robbins; OL Barry Stokes.
PLAYERS LOST: LB Mike Barrow; C Chris Bober; CB Ike Charlton; WR Ron Dixon; CB Ray Green; DT Cornelius Griffin; LB Dhani Jones; RB Dorsey Levens; DT Keith Hamilton; RB/KR Brian Mitchell.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
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