Straight Talk with Jim Sabo

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS CB Will Allen WR Tim Carter DT Kendrick Clancy LB Nick Greisen QB Tim Hasselbeck PR Chad Morton OT Bob Whitfield <BR S Shaun Williams

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

DT Kenderick Allen

TE Sean Berton

WR Willie Ponder

TE Visanthe Shiancoe

WR David Tyree

CB Frank Walker

It's midseason and the Giants are in strong contention for a playoff spot. Why should we concern ourselves with free agency at this point in time?

Because it's the right thing to do. Every team in the league knows who the potential free agents will be come March of 2006. They are being scouted and evaluated every week. This is one of the main functions of the pro scouting department of each team's front office. Not only are they evaluating other team's potential free agents, but their own as well.

We believe it is an interesting process and one that Giants' fans would enjoy following for themselves. It's an indication of direction and also a barometer of how much offseason work has to be done.

Let's start with the players who will become Restricted Free Agents. Take us through that process.

A player with three years of service whose contract expires in February 2006 is eligible to become a Restricted Free Agent. He is restricted because the team, in this case the Giants, has the right to match any contract offer the player obtains from another team. In some cases, there is draft choice compensation involved should the Giants fail to match the offer. The compensation is determined by two factors. One is the amount of money tendered to the player by the Giants. In the case of a standard offer, the compensation is set based on how the player entered the league. For example, Visanthe Shiancoe was a third-round draft pick. If another team signed Shiancoe to an offer sheet and the Giants chose not to match the offer, the Giants would receive a third-round pick in the 2006 draft from the signing team. Willie Ponder, David Tyree and Frank Walker were all sixth-rounders. Kenderick Allen and Sean Berton entered the league as undrafted free agents thus there would be no compensation for losing them. Obviously, "no comp" restricted free agents are the most desirable to try to sign away from other teams.

The other thing that can happen is that the tender offer can exceed the standard offer and compensation will be either a first- and third-round pick or just a first-round pick from the signing team. With such high compensation, this rarely happens. Some players in the league who are slated to become RFAs and who should get a first and third as compensation are: Minnesota WR Nate Burleson, San Francisco WR Brandon Lloyd, Indianapolis DE Robert Mathis and Colts LB Cato June.

In the Giants' case, the only player we could possibly see getting the larger offer would be David Tyree. He is such a valuable player and would definitely draw interest from other teams; as a result, the Giants may want the extra protection of first- and third-round compensation. Teams would give up a sixth-rounder for him but it's highly unlikely anyone would give up a 1 and a 3 for him.

As a general rule not too many restricted free agents actually change teams each year. Our estimate is that perhaps three to four make the move each year. So, while it can happen, it is not very likely. We would expect the Giants to retain all of their restricted free agents with the possible exception of third TE Sean Berton.

OK, let's move on to the Unrestricted Free Agents. Take us through that process as it applies to the Giants.

This is where it gets very interesting. This year, the Giants have eight players who, at the moment, are scheduled to become UFAs. Any of these players can be re-signed before they hit the UFA market. Let's take a look at each of them:

Will Allen – Not many believe Will Allen will be back next year. While he has played better of late, his career to date has been somewhat of a disappointment. He has tremendous athletic ability. He is physical. But, yet he is frustrating to watch because he is not a playmaker. The question is: will the Giants be willing to overlook that flaw in his game? Our estimation is they will not.

Allen falls into the first-round syndrome. A classic example of that is Eric Dorsey. If you remember, he was a tremendous physical specimen. He looked and moved like Mr. Universe. He had the look of a prototype defensive tackle. The problem was he seldom played that way. Dorsey was a first round pick so much more was expected of him. If he were a third- or fourth-round pick it would have been easier to live with him, but he wasn't and thus the frustration.

Allen will be one of the top corners available in free agency so it will be interesting because the Giants will obviously be looking for secondary help. Do they take a step back by not re-signing Allen in order to move two steps forward? It's an interesting question. It will probably come down to dollars. If they can get him at a reasonable price, then he has a chance of returning. Our guess is they won't be able to.

Tim Carter – Just in the nick of time, Carter has managed to stay healthy. We are however, still keeping our fingers crossed as we are only at the midway point in the season. This is going to be a tough call. He has tremendous ability; that has never been in doubt. It's the injuries that can put a drain on a team and a roster. Ideally they would re-sign him since Amani Toomer is getting up there in age. He should be his eventual replacement. Our estimation is that much of Carter's future is tied to his health. So, we will hedge this call. If he finishes the year healthy, then he will be back. If not, he's gone.

Kendrick Clancy – Clancy has been a pleasant surprise. He's always been decent against the run and he is an improving pass rusher. He knows and fits Tim Lewis' system and he won't break the bank dollar-wise. He's young and a good fit. We believe they will try to re-sign him.

Nick Greisen – It took him a while, but he has finally arrived. While there are still some concerns with Greisen about injuries, he has played well. We would take him any day of the week over Dhani Jones, a former LB with the team. On a defense that is evolving he can be a key factor. Our bet is they would like to grow with him. We would make him a priority re-signing.

Tim Hasselbeck – We are ambivalent regarding Hasselbeck. We aren't quite sure he's good enough to lead the team for an extended period. Hopefully, we will not need to know that. He should, however, be able to get them through a short-term situation. He is probably a good alternative. Since he already has a year in the system we believe they will bring him back, for a modest sum, at least to compete next year. If however, they believe Jared Lorenzen could fill the backup role, they could go in that direction.

Chad Morton – Chad Morton does a good job with punt returns. Based on where they have come from on special teams we would not cavalierly dismiss him. He's a veteran minimum type player, but one who fills an important role. Perhaps they will bring in rookie competition next year, but we would be fine if they re-signed Morton.

Bob Whitfield – Whitfield is at the end of his career. It is nice to have a veteran around like him in case of emergency. He can get by on knowledge and technique. Ideally they should be grooming a younger tackle, but right now the only possibilities are practice squad members Lewis Kelly and Myniya Smith. If they feel they can squeeze another year out of Whitfield at the veteran minimum he could be back.

Shaun Williams – Again, we have a veteran player who contributes in a reserve role at the right price. Williams is strong in run support and we envision him as a nickel or dime linebacker. He's not going to get a big contract so he will be affordable. We would like to see him finish his career with the Giants.

One quick question. Where will T.O. be playing next season?

The Broncos, Vikings and Dolphins have been mentioned as possible landing places for T.O., but if we had to pick one team right now it would be Washington. T.O. has Redskins written all over him. Based on his track record, the owner likes to collect stars and they would probably be willing to pay him. No one knows for sure at this point, but T.O. in Washington makes sense.

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