Free At Last

Coaches and players always say they play the season one game at a time. They all say they don't look ahead on the schedule. Tom Coughlin always says the next game is the most important game. While that type of logic is usually a good idea for players and coaches, there are those in the organization who do not and should not follow that line of thought.

Scouts and personnel types must look ahead. Part of their job is to look forward. Each week they must look at what they have and then project what they will need to acquire either through free agency and/or the draft to improve the team. It is an ongoing process. Let's assume that role and start the process this week by looking at the Giants' potential Restricted (RFA) and Unrestricted (UFA) Free Agents.

The Giants have the right to match an offer an RFA might receive from another team. If the Giants do not match the offer they will receive draft choice compensation based on the amount of the tender given to the player. Some RFAs will not receive any draft choice compensation.

As for UFAs, they are free to leave without compensation if they are signed by another team. Since the Giants will not have the opportunity to match an offer in these cases, some very tough decisions must be made. The Giants should try to re-sign any important potential UFAs they'd like to retain before they hit the open market on or about March 1.

RFAs

DE Adrian Awasom
S James Butler
QB Jared Lorenzen


UFAs

DT Russell Davis
P Jeff Feagles
DT William Joseph
LS Ryan Kuehl
LB Kawika Mitchell
LB Reggie Torbor
K Lawrence Tynes
RB Derrick Ward
S Gibril Wilson

Potential Restricted Free Agents

Adrian Awasom – Awasom was placed on Injured Reserve in Week 3 with a neck injury. He was considered a backup but with the current depth and health at DE, it's questionable whether he will even receive an RFA tender. If he does it will be a minimum tender; because he was an undrafted free agent there will be no compensation if another team signs him. Value: D. He will not be more then a deep reserve wherever he plays. Projection: Do not re-sign.

James Butler – It's no secret there has been a problem at safety this season. Poor tackling and blown coverages have caused concern here and Butler has been guilty of his share of both. Still, we would say he still has some promise. He will never be a big, hard-hitting safety, but he does have some coverage skills. We would like to find an upgrade over him, but we still would re-sign him as an RFA if he would accept the minimum tender. We would like him to compete in another camp with the safeties they bring in next year. If Michael Johnson continues to improve as he gets playing time that might affect the decision to re-sign Butler. Value: C+. Has coverage ability, would be a good third safety. Projection: Re-sign.

Jared Lorenzen – Lorenzen is no longer a novelty act. It was cute to watch him play in preseason. He's got a strong arm, stronger than Eli's, and for his size he has pretty good mobility. The problem is he has not played well when given the chance in preseason games. Ask yourself this: If Eli were to get hurt, would you be comfortable with Lorenzen coming in to replace him? The job of a backup QB is to get a team through some games without being a total disaster. We aren't so sure Lorenzen could do that efficiently. It may be time for Lorenzen to begin his life's work. Value: D+. He has regressed to a third QB, at best. Projection: Do not re-sign.

Potential Unrestricted Free Agents

Russell Davis – Davis is a 32-year-old journeyman with a wide body. He was brought in to replace William Joseph. He plays only sporadically. Hopefully Jay Alford will step up next year to be in the DT rotation. Value: C. They should be able to do better through the draft or by signing a low-level younger DT. Projection: Do not re-sign.

Jeff Feagles – The temptation is to let him keep punting as long as he wants. The reality is he is not having a great year. He is last in gross punting average. He's 27th in net average and 17th in placing the ball inside the 20. His value has always been his placement and accuracy. Clearly his skills are beginning to erode a bit with age. His poor net average is somewhat a result of him trying to place the ball. Value: B. They still can do a lot worse than him. Projection: Re-sign. He may make the decision for the Giants by retiring. Even if he re-signs they must bring a serious challenger to camp next summer.

William Joseph – Bye bye Willie Joe; it's been nice knowing you. It's time to part company with the 2003 first-round pick. He never lived up to expectations. He spent this year on IR with a back injury. This one is simple. Value: D. He might have value to another team that may be willing to give him another shot. Projection: Do not re-sign.

Ryan Kuehl – Kuehl is one of the premier long-snappers in the league. The problem is that since he has been with the Giants (2003) he has missed two full seasons. Also, he will be 36 before next season. As a result, this becomes a fairly tough decision. Value: B+. The length of the contract will be important here. They can't give him more than two years. Projection: Re-sign, if he passes the physical.

Kawika Mitchell – To borrow a baseball term, Mitchell looks like he may be a flash in the pan. He played well for a few games starting with the third game in Washington. Now he is back to being his old invisible self. In a perfect world, next season Mitchell would be a reserve. He is versatile with the ability to play inside or outside. Value: B-. Quality depth has always been a problem and Mitchell would help with that. He will make them a better team next season as a reserve. Projection: Re-sign but he can't expect to break the bank.

Reggie Torbor – We would like to see Torbor move on because we believe he will be utilized better somewhere else. We don't think he was used properly here. In our opinion, Torbor would make an excellent 3-4 LB. He would be a good gamble for a 3-4 team. He needs to play forward. He is not good dropping in coverage. At the very least he will be a good special teams player. Value: C+. He is more valuable to a 3-4 team than the Giants, so even though he has talent, be needs to move on for his own sake. Projection: Do not re-sign.

Lawrence Tynes – Tynes has been much too inconsistent for a team that fancies itself as a playoff team. We suppose there are worse kickers in the league than him but not many. Missing extra points is inexcusable. The only reason he beat out Josh Huston in camp is because he had veteran experience. Frankly, we are surprised he is still on the team. This whole discussion may be a moot point because there is a reasonable chance he won't finish the season with the Giants. One more inopportune miss and he could be gone. Making matters worse for him, he does not have a strong leg on kickoffs. Value: C. There could be a team willing to sign him for next season. Projection: Do not re-sign.

Derrick Ward – There is only one problem with Derrick Ward: injuries. If he could stay healthy this would be a no-brainer. He serves as a good complement to Brandon Jacobs. We believe they could be an excellent one-two punch. While we are on the subject of RBs, where they miss Tiki Barber most is in the passing game. They have no one who is nearly as good as Tiki was on screens and check-downs. He could make something out of those plays. Maybe Ahmad Bradshaw is the answer to that, but we won't know because he seems to be buried on the bench. Value: B. If it comes down to a choice between Ward and Reuben Droughns, it has to be Ward who stays. Projection: Re-sign if he passes the physical.

Gibril Wilson – This will be perhaps the toughest free-agent decision they will make. There is no question the team needs to add another safety who will be a starter. They need a strong-tackling strong safety. Wilson would ideally be the free safety. He has ball skills. Wilson might be looking for a substantial raise. We've seen him make strides this year and we believe he has the skills to get even better. How much better we aren't sure. This is a tough decision, but we think it will come down to how much he is looking for and how much he will command on the open market. Value: A-. He can be a part of the Giants' future defense. Projection: Re-sign.

In conclusion, the Giants are in better shape than most other teams regarding potential free agents. This is always a very tough decision time because it involves the lives of players who have been with the team. With sentiment aside, John Mara said it best in a recent interview. Mara said it comes down to "will he help us win" and "can we win a championship with this guy." The most important player for them to re-sign is Gibril Wilson. He will help them win. If they didn't re-sign any of the other potential free agents it would not be a disaster. We would like Kawika Mitchell back but only as a reserve. If they could re-sign James Butler at the veteran minimum we would let him compete in camp. The decision on Jeff Feagles is probably his to make. Ryan Kuehl should be back if he passes the physical.


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