Hot Topic & Player Notes: Giants

When the Giants get around to studying their roster for financial relief, a process that probably started the day after their playoff departure, they will have to make some hard decisions.

They need more cap room, and at the moment they are only $3 million or so under the ceiling. They'll need more, lots more, to provide the help they know they must find (including the draft).

So looking long and hard might produce a few surprises - such as veteran left tackle Luke Petitgout. He is scheduled to earn more in base salary this season than any of the team's more visible stars - more than running back Tiki Barber, more than quarterback Eli Manning, more than defensive end Michael Strahan.

It's not that he isn't capable, because he is, but having been with the Giants since they made him their first-round draft pick in 1999, he hasn't improved much past the point of two or three years ago. His penchant for committing false start penalties has hurt drives and caused no end of irritation on the part of the coaching staff.

So is he worth the nearly $6 million he'll cost this season? Probably not, when put in strict monetary terms. The problem won't be so much releasing him as it will be replacing him.

Right now, the Giants truly don't have a reserve left tackle besides veteran Bob Whitfield, who joined the team last season at the age of 34 and played well - however sporadically - when called upon to come in for injury reasons.

Whitfield is a free agent this year as well but is probably not in danger of being hotly pursued. His value to the Giants is probably greater than to any other team, and if he is healthy he should be retained.

As a starter? Hopefully not, but the former Pro Bowl veteran could probably summon up enough energy for one final season.

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Michael Strahan, just returned from his seventh Pro Bowl appearance, received good news of another sort. The harassment charges leveled by his estranged wife, Jean, were thrown out of court. The judge ruled that yelling and screaming at her was acceptable since she had removed $1.6 million from a joint checking account and put it in her own account.

--LG Rich Seubert was signed to a two-year contract extension, making him Giants property through the 2009 season. He will be groomed to compete for the center position and take over there in 2007.

--RCB Will Allen is an unrestricted free agent, or will be on March 3, and so far the Giants have given no indication that they plan to make him an offer. He was their first round pick in 2001.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--DT Kenderick Allen is a useful reserve and might even be a stop-gap starter. He shouldn't cost too much and will probably be retained.

--RCB Will Allen seems to have outlived his usefulness with the Giants. He covers "soft," didn't have an interception in 2005 and flat-out missed or dropped six sure interceptions. He won't take less money to be a backup, so he has to move on.

--WR Tim Carter has the speed and size but just can't seem to stay healthy. The Giants would like to retain his services but considering his track record, they won't go too high to keep him, dollar-wise.

--DT Kendrick Clancy was signed last year as a free agent from Pittsburgh and played well as the starter on the left side. He will be pursued by other teams but has proven his value to the Giants and they'll do everything they can to keep him.

--WLB/MLB Nick Greisen became a starter and a near-star last season at two positions following injuries, and now wants to be paid starter money. The Giants cannot afford to lose him, but they may not be able to pay him what another team might decide to offer.

--QB Tim Hasselbeck didn't get to throw a single pass and may not be retained since he wasn't the Giants' first choice as Eli Manning's backup anyway. That was Jim Miller, the veteran who injured himself in minicamp.

--KR Chad Morton proved to be valuable as a return specialist and should be kept. He saves the Giants a roster spot and that is no small blessing. But he might want too much in terms of his position, and could take a better offer.

--LT Bob Whitfield was a spot of sunshine, a 34-year-old veteran who didn't complain about sitting on the bench, who played well when called upon and who served as an on-the-field coach for some of the younger tackles. He'll be far more important if Luke Petitgout is released.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:

--WR/KR Willie Ponder seems to have fallen deep into coach Tom Coughlin's dog house and isn't expected to recover. Why? He fumbled two kickoff returns. That's tantamount to sharing the playbook with the opposition.

--TE Visanthe Shiancoe was a third-round pick out of Morgan State three years ago and while his athletic abilities never let him down, he just hasn't picked up the position. He might be too expensive to keep, an experiment gone bad.

--WR David Tyree made the NFC Pro Bowl roster as the special teams designate, but his usefulness as a WR took a nosedive. He is exceptional on specials and the team would like to keep him. But at what price?

--CB Frank Walker has virtually no chance of sticking. He makes too many unnecessary mistakes for coach Tom Coughlin and doesn't have starting credentials even on a team desperate for CBs.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED:

--LG Rich Seubert, contract extension through 2009.

MEDICAL WATCH:

MLB Antonio Pierce missed the last four games, including the playoff game, with a serious high ankle sprain. He is said to be recovered now, however. SLB Carlos Emmons had a partially torn pectoral muscle. TE Jeremy Shockey missed the Pro Bowl with a cracked sternum, but recovered without incident.

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