Monday, March 17, 2014
DRC a good get, but much more work to do
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
The signing of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a good move for the New York Giants. I wrote Sunday night that it would be if they signed him, and now that they have, I reiterate this. He's a good player who's played in the Super Bowl and will only be 28 when the season starts. Five years, $39 million with $15 million guaranteed is a whopper of a deal and likely will force a contract restructure or two elsewhere on the roster, but Rodgers-Cromartie has the kind of ability on which it's worth placing a bet, and part of my problem with the Giants' offseason this year has been their seeming unwillingness to place a big bet. So I'm not going to rip this move. One of the Giants' goals when this offseason began was to strengthen their secondary, and they have done so. On paper, it is clearly the strongest part of their roster as currently constructed.
Which brings us to the forward-looking portion of today's program, where we must remind ourselves that the Giants' roster is not yet fully constructed. In fact, it still needs a great deal of work before this can be labeled a 2014 title contender. And if I were making the decisions in East Rutherford, my next focus would be on the line. Either line, defensive or offensive. Because they both need a lot of work.
For argument's sake, and because most of the Giants' offseason work so far has been on defense, let's start with the defensive line. Their best two players on the defensive line last year were, without much competition, Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph. Tuck is now a Raider and Joseph a Viking, which (a) is terrible news if you fear an invasion by marauders and (b) requires the Giants to contemplate their replacements.
Even if you believe that Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins will be ready to step into starting roles in their second years and replace the production that Tuck and Joseph delivered in 2013, the Giants still need to add depth at positions where deep rotations are critical. And believing that Moore and Hankins will be ready to do that is a major, major leap of faith in players who didn't see the field much as rookies. Holes remain at this critical spot on which the Giants have built their championship teams, and there's nothing that makes a secondary look bad quicker than an absent pass rush.
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Wait a second. Let's call this section "the offense in general." The Giants still have only one viable outside-the-numbers receiver, and that's the still-green Rueben Randle. They have no real tight end, they're hoping banged-up war horse Chris Snee can answer the bell at right guard and their choices right now at center are (a) J.D. Walton, who was a terrible player in 2011 and hasn't played since September of 2012 or (b) Eli Manning hikes the ball to himself like you do in the front yard when your brother is screaming "One Mississippi!"
The Giants have fewer holes than they did a week ago, but they still have plenty of them. And I think that's the cautionary point I'd make here. Yes, there are still free agents to sign, but we all know this process offers no perfect solutions. Yes, the draft looms in May, but how many right-away starters can you hope to get from a draft? Two if you have a good one, three if you really nail it. The Giants, as of this morning, were not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie away from the Super Bowl, and they remain in the midst of a significant roster rebuild. Some of the choices they have made over the past week will turn out to have been good ones. Others will not. A year from now, they'll re-assess them all and continue working.
But continue working is what the Giants must do. Their 2013 team was a terrible one -- a wheezing husk of a championship team that won seven of its final 10 games because it kept fighting when teams that had more talent but less character rolled over. The manner in which the Giants have operated this offseason so far shows that they weren't fooled by their strong finish and know how large the project that lies in front of them still is. They must and will continue to keep working, because they still have a lot of work to do.