Mel Kiper Jr.'s first mock draft of 2014 came out Wednesday, and I wrote this post on my feelings about his projection of Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley to the New York Giants at No. 12 in the first round. I don't think there's a chance they take a linebacker in the first round, but if there is, it would only be because they didn't re-sign Jon Beason, who played very well at middle linebacker for them after they acquired him from Carolina for a seventh-round pick at the end of September. A team that doesn't like to use its high-end resources on the linebacker position isn't going to spend free-agent money and a first-round pick on the position this year. They'll probably spend neither, but certainly not both.
But what about Beason specifically? What if they decide that what he brought to the position was worth a new contract? He's said he'd like to return, but he's an unrestricted free agent, so it's obviously going to be about price.
Beason made $3.25 million in 2013 and will justifiably believe he deserves a raise. The inside linebacker contracts at which he and his agent will look for comparisons are those of Detroit's Stephen Tulloch (five years, $25.5 million, $11.25 million guranteed) and Baltimore's Elvis Dumervil (five years, $26 million, $8.25 million guaranteed). Beason just turned 29 on Tuesday, so a long-term deal isn't a crazy idea for him to have. But given his injury history, it's going to be hard for the Giants to commit too much in terms of contract length or guaranteed money.
The Giants signed Michael Boley to a five-year, $25 million contract in 2009, when he was 26 years old. They gave Antonio Pierce a six-year, $26 million contract in 2005, when he was 26 years old. So there's some precedent for them signing linebackers long-term, though those two most recent examples were significantly younger than Beason is now. And in recent years, the Giants have valued the linebacker position even less, due to the fact that they spend so much time in nickel defenses with only two linebackers on the field.
So my guess is that, if Beason wants to stay in New York, he shouldn't expect much more than about $4 million per year on a long-term deal. It's possible the Giants would be amenable to a deal with a lower guarantee or some incentives, but if Beason thinks he can find something closer to Tulloch range on the open market, he'll play somewhere else in 2014. At his age and coming off a strong season, he's likely looking to get as much as he can on this contract, and when players do that, the Giants tend to let them walk.
My prediction is that Beason prices himself out of the Giants' range and that they end up patching things together at linebacker the way they have basically since Pierce left. And no, I don't think they'll use a first-round pick on the position, whether Beason is back or not.