Offensive Tackles - The truth is they need one and maybe two new tackles. Certainly we would look to upgrade right tackle. David Diehl had given it his best shot and he should be on the team next year, but not as the starting right tackle. Luke Petitgout has been a major disappointment. He received major left tackle money and he hasn't delivered. He gets beat too often and his concentration this year has been awful. It's possible he would be more effective back at right tackle, but even that is a question if he can't cut down on the number of foolish penalties and improve his pass protection. Here are some tackle possibilities:
Orlando Pace, St. Louis. The best tackle available. He won't come cheap. He has been dancing with his team, the Rams, and keeps signing one-year deals. He's tall and smooth. He is not a world class run blocker but he's pretty darn good at it. He is an exceptional pass protector. Would be a left tackle fixture to build around.
Walter Jones, Seattle. He is an elite tackle. Like Pace, he has been dancing around for the last few years with the Seahawks. They keep placing a Franchise tag on him and he has been signing one-year deals. Maybe this is the year someone can pry him lose. Some worry about possible wear and tear and there might even be a question of his work ethic, but he can play left tackle with the best of them. Not as good as Pace, but clearly the second choice.
Jonas Jennings, Buffalo. He can play the left or right side. He has gutted it out this year with an injured shoulder. His game is effort and toughness, which is the type of player the Giants need more of. He is not smooth, but he's very good. He's definitely worth it if his shoulder is healthy.
Ryan Diem, Indianapolis. He's big, physical and young. He's not real mobile, but he's a decent athlete. He plays hard and he has good techniques. There might be some concern that he is playing in an excellent system where Peyton Manning gets rid of the ball very quickly, and that makes him look better than he is. Still, he would be a welcome addition here.
Victor Riley, New Orleans. He's a right tackle only who has battled weight problems throughout his career. He's not great, but he is solid and he would be an improvement here. He's more of a stopgap than someone to build the line around, but he would come at a reasonable price and right now, as a minimum we would be interested in an upgrade at right tackle.
Kareem McKenzie, New York Jets. He will command top right tackle money. He is having a superb year. He's big, strong and physical. He would be difficult to get, but definitely worth it. It's possible he could project to left tackle as well.
Chad Slaughter, Oakland. This guy looks the part. He's huge with very long arms. He can play left or right tackle. Although he's basically a short-range player, he's a good athlete for his size. He's a low priced guy worthy of a gamble, and we would look hard at him.
Oliver Ross, Pittsburgh. This is his first year as a full time starter at right tackle. He's very versatile as well as tall and strong. He has played well. He isn't pretty but he's one of those guys who get the job done without a lot of fanfare.
There are also a couple of restricted free agent tackles we would look at.
The compensation would depend on the amount they are tendered, so they might be a bargain. Kevin Barry from Green Bay moves well. He has gotten a lot of experience in their short-yardage package. He shows excellent potential. Brandon Gorin from New England is tall, but not real physical. He got his chance to start when Pats tackle Tom Ashworth was injured and has responded very well. He knows the blocking angles. He could be an RFA steal.
Wide Receivers - As usual, the free agent wide receiver crop is not very exciting. There really isn't a whole lot of value to choose from. Unfortunately for the Giants, the last several drafts have not produced much in the way of players who are certain to take over for Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. Much has been said and written about their respective downfalls in production, but in fairness it is not totally their fault. Again, the problem goes back to the offensive line. They need so much help in pass protection that many times there are just two receivers running patterns. The same is true for Jeremy Shockey. Many times he is required to block rather than be the downfield force he should be. That being said, it's time to get serious about rebuilding at wideout. Here are some of the top free agents:
Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh. Without question he will be the best available. He's tall and talented and this was his breakout season. He's emerging as one of the game's best receivers. He is dynamic because he is a threat at every level, short, intermediate and deep. This year he has improved his focus and concentration dramatically. He also has matured a great deal as well. He could be a superstar for a long time to come.
Brandon Stokley, Indianapolis. Remember him? Giants fans will remember him as the Baltimore receiver burning Jason Sehorn in the Giants' last Super Bowl appearance. His name won't appear on a lot of free agent lists because he had the good fortune to negotiate a contract with voidable years. He accomplished the incentives, which will make him free this offseason. He has fought through some injuries and has become a top-flight receiver. He has speed and very good hands and his routes are excellent. He's a third receiver with the Colts, but he's good enough to be a number one here.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cincinnati. He is having a strong finish to this season. Once Peter Warrick was injured he filled in and he has shined. Most likely he would be a solid number two receiver instead of the third or fourth guy he is with the Bengals.
Tai Streets, Detroit. He's a solid receiver with some speed. He needs to improve his consistency. He's more of a complementary type, but he has the size and skills that translate well.
Corey Bradford, Houston. He's a legitimate vertical receiver with big speed and decent hands. The only thing holding him back from greatness is inconsistency.
Charles Lee, Tampa Bay. He is a receiver we have liked for some time. He has good size and at times he flashes. He runs solid routes and he has very good hands. He was bothered by injuries, but he's a guy with a bright future if he is healthy.
Linebackers - The Giants have no excuses. This is an outstanding group of free agent linebackers. It's obvious Barrett Green has not bought into Tom Coughlin's program. Carlos Emmons, at this point, is a limited player and Kevin Lewis belongs as a versatile reserve, not as a starting MLB. Nick Greisen has looked good on occasion, but there are injury concerns with him. Reggie Torbor will have value as an edge rusher. Here's the list of guys who should be of interest:
Matt Stewart, Atlanta. We love this guy. He's very underrated. He's a tall, smart strongside LB with good speed. He can play on the line or stacked. He's also a very good tackler. He's an emerging LB who can play three downs.
Ed Hartwell, Baltimore. Although he plays in a 3-4 he projects well to a 4-3 MLB. He's exceptionally strong in run support and has good range. He's a little weak in coverage; he is not a natural cover guy. He's very underrated because of the presence of Ray Lewis, but he does all the dirty work while Lewis rakes in the glory. He would look great in blue.
Morlon Greenwood, Miami. He is a solid, up and coming player. He has very good speed and he's very physical. We like that he too would be a three-down backer. He would not be very expensive and could be ready to become a big time player.
Jason Glenn, New York Jets. We have had our eye on this guy for some time. He missed time with a broken forearm. He is a great special teams player. We like that he has earned more playing time. He excels on special teams. Then he advanced to playing some nickel. He doesn't have the so-called measurables, but he is a football player. Guys like him deserve a chance. We believe he has 4-3 ability as a run and hit LB.
Ike Reese, Philadelphia. He also made his mark on special teams. Every time we see him playing, even though it has been in a limited role, this guy makes plays. He's a hammer with hard-core strength. He has developed into their fourth LB and he backs up all three spots. He's tall and thin, but he's physical and reckless. He's another football player who should be ready to be a starter.
Kendrell Bell, Pittsburgh. This guy is awesome. He's been bothered lately with some injuries, but he is the real deal. He is an intimidating player against the run. He's always around the ball and he's very physical. He would fit nicely as a 4-3 MLB. We believe he is the unsung heart of the Steelers defense.
Julian Peterson, San Francisco. He tore his Achilles' and has missed much of the year. We believe he is similar to Ian Gold, the former Denver LB in that he is a very good player who may come cheaper because of his injury. Tampa Bay signed Gold at a bargain price. Perhaps the Niners will let Peterson get away too. He's a great outside pass rusher who is also a three-down LB.
Antonio Pierce, Washington. What a year this guy is having. He has been incredible. He has gone from being a career nickel backer to becoming a true star. He will cash a big paycheck next year. He's another guy who is a bit undersized, but can play. He has excellent smarts and very good instincts. Behind former Giant Cornelius Griffin, Pierce is the runner-up MVP of the Skins' very good defense. It's been a storybook year for him.
If the GM is still here, and it looks like he will be, he has another chance to impact this team. Without many draft choices, free agency should play a major role.
Our recommendation is to add at least one tackle. It will be difficult to get either Pace or Jones. It is possible their teams will Franchise them once again. Kareem McKenzie and Ryan Diem would be the two we would realistically target. One of those guys would be a good start to rebuilding the line.
At receiver, the two guys who should be targeted are Plaxico Burress and Brandon Stokley. Either one would be an improvement over what they have now.
At linebacker, we certainly would go after Matt Stewart and either Kendrell Bell or Ed Hartwell. Imagine Stewart at strongside with either Bell or Hartwell in the middle and Nick Greisen on the weakside. That would be a strong unit especially with Reggie Torbor as a pass rusher.
Obviously they can't get all of these guys, but a couple of them would go a long way toward restoring respectability. The big thing is that they are character players. They are players who would not be content just to cash a paycheck. The Giants apparently have enough of those types of guys already.