Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel, Etc.

The Giants struck quickly in free agency to overhaul their defensive secondary, which lost safeties Brent Alexander (released) and Shaun Williams (free agent, signed with Carolina)) and figures to lose cornerbacks Will Allen (free agent) and Will Peterson (back injury concerns).

Former Miami cornerback Sam Madison was the first to agree to terms, and is expected to start opposite second-year corner Corey Webster. R.W. McQuarters, a veteran most recently with Detroit, will be expected to be the third corner if he doesn't beat out Webster for a starting job.

"Madison and McQuarters are veteran corners who have instantly upgraded our secondary," GM Ernie Accorsi said. "The two young signees, Harris and Bell, will be in the mix with the young corners we already have to give us a good mix back there. And McQuarters is also a premier returner, which gives us depth at that critical position. We wanted to upgrade our secondary in free agency so we can go into the draft with an open mind."

To complete the overhaul, veteran free safety Will Demps was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Baltimore.

"The signing of Will Demps should complete the UFA phase of our rebuilding the defensive secondary," Accorsi said. "This is a four-year starter on a very competitive defensive team in Baltimore. He's very athletic and can make plays."

And to provide depth, the Giants signed cornerback Jason Bell away from Houston and safety Quentin Harris away from Arizona.

"In Jason Bell you have a young corner who has played in the dime situations, who has been an outstanding special teams player, who is very anxious to compete and play in this system," coach Tom Coughlin said. "In Quentin Harris you have a proven special teams performer who has had multiple responsibilities, including personal protector to prove his reliability, and who has also seen action as a corner and as a safety. So, in these players you have versatility, you have got veterans, you have got guys that have played in multiple roles and are looking forward to an opportunity to be New York Giants and to compete for positions in the secondary."

--The Giants' current top-three offseason needs:

For a team that finished 11-5 and took home the NFC East Division championship, there are more needs than expected. But they aren't all serious; the most major need is to get the injured players back and healthy.

But for more tangible needs:

1. Linebacker: The Giants must have an outside linebacker with youth and flair, and if Reggie Torbor can't do it on the strong side (this will be his third shot) they will have to sign one in free agency or get extraordinarily lucky in the draft. Should they wind up with Texas-El Paso linebacker Thomas Howard, the search for one of the outside positions might be at an end. But they need another one, especially if weak-side linebacker Nick Greisen departs via free agency. They're looking at a few veterans, including Julius Peterson of San Francisco.

2. Defensive tackle: With Kendrick Clancy off to Arizona, the Giants need to bolster the interior of their line. But thus far through free agency they have been unable to fill the void.

3. Running back: This might sound odd when you consider Tiki Barber gained 1,860 yards (10 short of tying Seattle's Shaun Alexander for the NFL rushing championship) but there is almost nothing behind him and if he is injured for any length of time, it could be a disaster. Rookie Brandon Jacobs looked spectacular early but soon ran head-first into a learning problem with the playbook. Reserves Michael Cloud and Derrick Ward are ordinary on very good days. But there aren't that many outstanding running backs past the first round, and as for free agents, most of the worthwhile veterans have already found new homes.

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY

It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Giants might move up in the first round if they see someone they really like suddenly become available. They are thinking linebacker and cornerback, probably in that order after bringing in free agent corner Sam Madison. They also appear to be in the hunt for free agent linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Failing to land one or both, they'll have to deal with the available draft product, which puts them back in the cornerback-linebacker, linebacker-cornerback situation.

It would be dangerous to ignore the need at two other positions -- offensive tackle and running back. There is no chance that the top tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, will be available, not unless they engineer another blockbuster Draft Day trade (see: 2004, Eli Manning-San Diego), but either Winston Justice of Southern Cal and Eric Winston of Miami (Fla.) could start to slip.

The running back field isn't very full, and it wouldn't make sense for the Giants to attempt to move up to get one. But one is definitely needed, with such as Brandon Jacobs, Michael Cloud and Derrick Ward standing -- not very firmly -- behind superstar Tiki Barber.

NOTES, QUOTES

Without confirmation from either side, a story has been making the rounds that former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington has expressed an interest in signing with the Giants and that the Giants, on their part, are going to consider it. Arrington brings a vast amount of talent but also a considerable amount of locker-room trouble along with a huge contract.

-- Giants CEO John K. Mara was given credit for putting together a coalition of owners who formed the basis for the majority vote on the extended labor deal that passed with a 30-2 vote last Wednesday night. "It was just like his father (the late Wellington Mara) would do," said one of the owners.. "John just assumed the same role (as a conciliator)."

-- Weak-side linebacker Nick Greisen is going to test the free agent market because one of his two demands for re-signing with the Giants (that he be allowed to play the inside) will not and cannot be met. They are willing to pay him as a starter, since he became one, but he won't get to start ahead of Antonio Pierce.

-- Visanthe Shiancoe, the Giants' second-string tight end, is a restricted free agent and despite a lack of genuine performance will probably stay with the team. He has shown improvement in blocking, which he must do, and there aren't great tight ends out there in free agent land.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is what he preached his entire life. What's good for one or two teams might not be good for the league, and he always put the league ahead of the Giants." -- Giants CEO John Mara on the role he played which, in a large part, was just the same role his late father, Wellington, took on during NFL labor negotiations and disagreements.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--S Will Demps signed with the Giants, and will likely replace released FS Brent Alexander. "I think this is a good fit," Demps said. "They need a veteran safety to come in and run the back end (of the defense). This is a first-class, prestigious organization. I thought I'd be a perfect fit here. The things they do in Tim Lewis' defense are very similar to what we did in Baltimore. He saw a lot of things he can do with me, and I love that."

--OG Lewis Kelly re-signed with the Giants. Kelly spent most of last season on the practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster for the season's final three games and played on special teams in a victory over Kansas City on Dec. 17.

--LT Bob Whitfield re-signed with the Giants. "Whitfield gives us tremendous peace of mind at the critical left tackle position," GM Ernie Accorsi said.

--CB Jason Bell became the third free-agent corner to sign with the Giants. Terms of the deal for the former Houston Texan were not disclosed.

--S Quentin Harris signed with the Giants, reportedly for a two-year deal.

--QB Tim Hasselbeck signed a three-year, $2.25 million contract to stay with the Giants.

--RB/Kick returner Chad Morton signed a four-year, $3.85 million contract to stay with the Giants.

--CB R.W. McQuarters signed with the Giants. He reportedly received a three-year, $6 million deal that includes $3 million in guaranteed money and escalator clauses that could be worth an addition $1.5 million.

--S Shaun Williams signed with Carolina.

--DT Kendrick Clancy signed a four-year deal reported to be worth $8.1 million to leave the Giants to join Arizona.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Will Allen; CB Terrell Buckley; WR Tim Carter; RB Michael Cloud; LB Jay Foreman; WLB/MLB Nick Greisen; LB Roman Phifer..

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): WR Lamont Brightful.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DT Kenderick Allen; WR/KR Willie Ponder; TE Visanthe Shiancoe; WR David Tyree; CB Frank Walker.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: QB Tim Hasselbeck; OG Lewis Kelly; RB/KR Chad Morton.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Jason Bell; S Will Demps; S Quentin Harris; CB Sam Madison; CB R.W. McQuarters; WR Brandon Williams.

PLAYERS LOST: S Brent Alexander; DT Kendrick Clancy; LB Barrett Green; OG Jason Whittle; S Shaun Williams.

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