New York Giants: Kevin Boothe

The New York Giants don't like to build their team through free agency, so the fact that they have signed 19 free agents in the past two weeks indicates they have felt they had little choice. Theirs was a roster in such an extensive state of disrepair that they had to go out and apply as many free-agent band-aids as possible. No way the draft was going to fix all of their immediate needs. No one has enough picks for that.

The signing Friday of John Jerry, one of the former Dolphins offensive linemen who was implicated in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal last month, is an indication of just how difficult things get when you have to be as active in free agency as the Giants have.

Jerry
Time was, the Giants would have steered way clear of anyone involved in what happened in Miami because they don't need the issues that could arise from inviting potential discord into their locker room, and they had other options for filling whatever hole they were trying to fill. But right now, with cap space dwindling and significant needs still looming with the pass rush and passing offense, the Giants are on the lookout for bargains. And in large part because of what happened last year in Miami, Jerry comes at a bargain price.

Our man Adam Caplan reports that Jerry's deal is for one year and $770,000, with only $25,000 guaranteed. That makes this a no-risk signing for the Giants from a financial standpoint. He'll come in and compete for a roster spot with guys like James Brewer and Brandon Mosley, and if he makes it he could be a useful backup at several positions or even a potential starter if Chris Snee can't answer the bell. Jerry is 27, turning 28 this summer like almost every other free agent they've signed, so he fits the age profile to which they have tried very hard to adhere. (The only player they've signed who is over 30 is kicker Josh Brown.) There are reasons the Giants can convince themselves Jerry makes sense for them, but if he had cost any more to sign than he did, they likely couldn't have brought him in.

This is a tough game the Giants are playing, and it's one in which they are justifiably uncomfortable. There is no way to sign 19 or more free agents and expect them to all work out for you. At best, they are going to end up hitting on maybe half of these signings and have to address the holes left over from the misses again a year from now. Free agency is an imperfect science, fraught with imperfect solutions to larger problems. That is the state of the Giants right now, and the fact that they had to go out and sign someone like Jerry from the pool of backup guards because the Raiders signed Kevin Boothe illustrates it as well as anything yet has.
After a dizzying Sunday and Monday, things quieted down around the New York Giants on Tuesday. They signed former New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham, though maybe just as a favor to an old friend. It would be a surprise if that ended up being an impact move given his health issues, but I'm sure it's a low-cost gamble unlikely to hurt them even if he can't play.

But that was it for Tuesday, and with their salary cap room drying up due to their 18 free-agent signings so far, the Giants are likely to slow down a bit here. They still need help in the pass rush and in the passing game, but it's looking more and more likely that they'll seek that help in the draft, which is still seven weeks away. Meantime, they will bargain-hunt and tinker as they continue to work on the major roster rebuild this offseason has brought about.

Here's a look at a few things that still may be on the horizon:
  • Defensive line help: As of now, the pass-rushers are Jason Pierre-Paul (who's had major injury issues for two years in a row), Mathias Kiwanuka (better used as a rotational player than a starting defensive end) and Damontre Moore (a talented, high-motor project who didn't see the field much as a rookie in 2013). The Giants are startlingly thin at a position that has been their championship calling card. They briefly agreed to terms last week with free agent O'Brien Schofield for pass-rush help, but they failed him on his physical due to knee issues. He hasn't signed elsewhere, so they could theoretically go back to that well, but it seems unlikely. They looked at Anthony Spencer over the weekend, but his knee may not be ready in time either. I don't see them having the cap space for Jared Allen, who's on the wrong side of 30 for them anyway, and the remainder of the pass-rusher market is a bunch of Corey Wootton/Robert Ayers-type flotsam. Do they spend that No. 12 draft pick on a pass-rusher like Anthony Barr in May? Or do they really go with what little they have in this critical area? Dangerous to try that. You can make your secondary as strong as you want, but if you can't force the quarterback to throw the ball when and where he doesn't want to throw it, it won't matter much.
  • Receivers: I am well aware that Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Myers were lousy in 2013. I still find it hard to believe that losing both of them and adding only Manningham to Eli Manning's corps of pass-catchers is the way to fix the offense. Victor Cruz gets paid liked a No. 1 receiver and produces numbers like one, but he struggled with double-coverage in 2013 due to the lack of other options, and the Giants need someone who can win physical matchups all the way down the field. We've written a lot about the possibility of a pass-catcher like Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans or North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron at No. 12, and that may well be the best way to go at this point. The best remaining wide receivers on the market (Santonio Holmes? Miles Austin?) come with major question marks, and the best tight end, Jermichael Finley, does as well.
  • Center: Kevin Boothe signed with the Raiders on Monday, which shook up the Giants' plans a little bit. Not because Boothe is the second coming of Mike Webster or anything like that, but because he was to be their insurance policy at center in the likely event that this weird gamble they're taking with J.D. Walton doesn't work out. Now they're stuck with Walton or Dallas Reynolds unless they sign back Jim Cordle, who himself is no perfect solution. The offensive line was the most significant problem the 2013 Giants had, and new left guard Geoff Schwartz notwithstanding, it's hard to see how they've upgraded it enough. The middle rounds of the draft could offer a chance to draft a center like Florida State's Bryan Stork, and there still are some interesting, experienced names on the free-agent wire at the position. If the price for someone like Brian De La Puente or Ryan Wendell is right, they could still make a pre-draft move there and get deeper along the line as they must.
  • More relief? Kiwanuka's massive pay cut helped with the most recent signings, but there aren't too many more candidates on the roster for that kind of restructure. They could look into extending Antrel Rolle beyond 2014 and reducing his $9.25 million cap number in the process. Rolle is 31, though, and the only one of the Giants' 18 free-agent signings so far that's over 30 is kicker Josh Brown. Committing long-term to Rolle would seem to veer from the March 2014 plan. But he is one of their captains, and with Justin Tuck gone they could decide he's worth making an exception. The big elephant in the contract room, though, is Manning, whose 2014 cap number of $20.4 million is the third-highest in the league. They could reduce that with an extension of his current deal, which runs through 2015, but the Giants don't seem inclined to commit to Manning beyond 2015 at this point. They're a bit concerned with the possibility that he's in decline, and they'd like to see some 2014 proof otherwise before making that big long-term bet. A Manning extension would create the financial freedom for the Giants to acquire anyone they want, but it does not appear to be in the cards.
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The second day of free agency offered a little bit of everything for the New York Giants. They reached agreement on a new deal with middle linebacker Jon Beason, which was a good thing. They lost out on wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones, who re-signed with the Ravens. Their Tuesday deal with pass-rusher O'Brien Schofield fell apart when questions surfaced about his knee during his physical. And they signed a young center who hasn't played since 2012 but could well be in line to start for them in 2014.

A variety of activity for a team embarking on a major offseason roster rebuild. Here's a look at where things stand with those and other Giants-related situations as we turn our attention to Day 3:

Tuck
The pass rush: Free-agent defensive end Justin Tuck was in Oakland on Wednesday to visit the Raiders. The Giants offered Tuck a contract prior to the start of free agency, but the offer was not to his liking, and he's out testing the market to see whether someone will pay him something closer to what he thinks he's worth. If that doesn't happen -- or if he can generate enough interest elsewhere to convince the Giants to improve their offer -- there remains a chance Tuck could be back with the Giants. But the sense I get is that Tuck is disappointed that the Giants haven't tried harder to keep him and that he's seriously considering leaving.

Odd as it may sound, the Schofield situation could help Tuck's case. The Giants agreed with Schofield on a two-year, $8 million contract on Tuesday because they viewed him as a pass-rusher. Now that that deal has fallen apart, the Giants have to look elsewhere for pass-rush help, and bringing Tuck back might be more important than they thought it was 24 hours ago. Not that Schofield was ever going to be a one-for-one Tuck replacement, but they're hoping to stock up on overall pass-rush depth, and losing Tuck would push them in the other direction.

Tuck was still meeting with the Raiders late Wednesday night, and it's entirely possible they could convince him to stay out there. The Raiders had a bit of a rough day, as you may have heard, and need to spend money on someone.

Schwartz
The offensive line: The Giants announced the signing of free agent Geoff Schwartz, who is slated to play left guard with Chris Snee at right guard and ... well, someone at center. They also announced the signing of J.D. Walton, who was the Broncos' starting center in 2010 and 2011 before a serious ankle injury knocked him out in early 2012. Walton missed the entire 2013 season while recovering from the injury, but he doesn't turn 27 until later this month and could be an upside play for them at center -- a potential right-away and long-term starter at the position if he's healthy.

However, with David Baas having been cut, there's no way the Giants can stand on Walton as their only option at center. They haven't ruled out the possibility of re-signing Kevin Boothe to play center, and the fact remains that the top centers on the market haven't signed anywhere. So it's possible they could still get into the mix for someone like Evan Dietrich-Smith, Brian De La Puente or Ryan Wendell. Remember, Snee is no sure thing coming off his second hip surgery in as many years, and the Giants need offensive line depth in the worst way. If they ended up with a healthy Snee, a healthy Walton, Schwartz and another top-level center as interior line options for 2014, that would be a nice problem to have.

The Giants also had former Rams guard Shelley Smith in for a visit Wednesday. Smith is regarded as a top run-blocker who struggles in pass protection, but he's young still. Smith is scheduled to visit the Patriots today, so he's no sure thing to sign. Point is, the Giants know their needs on the line are extensive, and they're working to fix them.

Cornerback: The Giants did place an exploratory call to the Buccaneers a few days ago when they put Darrelle Revis on the market. But those talks went nowhere, and the Giants weren't a factor once Revis was cut Wednesday. He signed with the Patriots almost immediately, as though that had been the plan all along.

The Giants continue to look for a cornerback to go with Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, and they had Tracy Porter in for a visit Wednesday. Porter left the building without a deal, but that doesn't mean he won't sign. Several other cornerback options remain available on the market, and it's possible the Giants could find one in the first or second round of the draft.

Jilted by Jacoby: The Giants wanted Jones. They saw him as a game-changer as a return man, and they desperately want to upgrade their return units in 2014. But they also saw Jones as someone who could help as a wide receiver -- something that, say, Devin Hester doesn't offer. So while they could go out and get someone like Hester for returns, they have been hoping their answer for the return game could also contribute something else. I haven't heard what Plan B is on this. Maybe someone like Ted Ginn Jr. We shall see. They'll still need a wide receiver to replace Hakeem Nicks, unless they think Rueben Randle can elevate himself to that level in time for 2014.

Assorted tidbits: Cornerback Terrell Thomas was also scheduled to visit the Raiders. Thomas has not received any contract offer from the Giants, who seem content to let him walk. ... Linebacker Keith Rivers signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. ... The Giants re-signed Curtis Painter, who was Eli Manning's backup quarterback in 2013. Training camp will tell whether Ryan Nassib is ready to beat him out or will have to spend another year as the No. 3 quarterback. ... In answer to many of your Twitter questions, I'm hearing nothing about the Giants and tight ends. No tight ends have signed yet, though.

Giants to add center J.D. Walton

March, 12, 2014
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Here's one that came out of the blue. According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the New York Giants are signing a former Denver Broncos center named J.D. Walton, who hasn't played since 2012 because of an ankle injury.

Walton
Walton turns 27 later this month and was a third-round pick by Denver in the 2010 draft. He started all 16 games for the Broncos in 2010 and 2011, and four in 2012 before he got hurt. So this is a dude with some real talent and upside if he's healthy. He fits the age profile of the free agents the Giants appear to be trying to sign (a little on the young side of it, actually) and also the overall profile as a guy who hasn't done much in the league yet but has done enough to demonstrate the promise of more.

Should you pencil him in as your starting center in 2014? I doubt it. There remains a chance the Giants could bring back Kevin Boothe at center, and top free agents such as Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian de la Puente haven't signed anywhere else yet. I can't imagine Walton costs much to sign, so it's likely the Giants are placing a small bet on a high-upside guy who could start for them at center right away if healthy or down the road if he needs some time to get back into the flow.

The totality of what the Giants have done so far in free agency isn't very impressive at this point, but they do seem to have an idea of what they want to do, and their offseason process is a long, long way from complete.
In general, I'm not a fan of throwing big money at the top-line, most established free agents out there. Unless you're looking at franchise quarterbacks, NFL careers are too short and players' primes are too fleeting. If you're spending big bucks on a guy who's already done a lot, odds are you'll end up paying for some bad years -- or trying to find a way out of a bad contract.

So in general, I like what the New York Giants did Tuesday on the first day of free agency. I think they still have a lot to do, but the guys they did sign fit a desirable profile when I look at what free agency is at its best. They were looking for players who are somewhat established in the league but still have upside and lots to prove. And I think they may have found it with these three interesting signings:

Guard Geoff Schwartz. A former 16-game starter who's played guard and tackle in the league and only this past year fully recovered from a 2011 hip injury. He was one of the top interior linemen in the league over the second half of 2013 for Kansas City, turns 28 in July and feels like a player on the upswing, the way Evan Mathis was when the Eagles signed him under the radar in 2011. He also has some experience playing tackle, so they could potentially use him there if they decide to rearrange anything with Justin Pugh or Will Beatty.

Running back Rashad Jennings. Hasn't had much opportunity to start in the NFL, but as a result he also has a bit more tread on his tires than your typical 29-year-old running back. The Giants have some underlying numbers to indicate Jennings is capable of big things if given more carries than he's been given at this point in his career. If they choose to rely on him as a starter, he could explode. If David Wilson is viable and they use Jennings as a complementary back, they could find him useful for a long time to come. Another guy who may be ready to take off.

Linebacker O'Brien Schofield. This one's kind of a wild card. Schofield hasn't done much as an outside linebacker in the NFL so far, but he was a pass-rusher in college at Wisconsin and finished second (to Ryan Kerrigan) in the Big Ten in sacks in 2009. So you look at the two-year, $8 million deal and wonder what this guy has done to earn it. But (a) let's see what the contract numbers really look like once we have details and (b) the Giants appear to be trying to pay guys for what they think they will do for them, rather than for what they've done for their former teams. So if they look at Schofield as a player who can contribute to the pass rush, and they plan to use him that way, the money starts to make more sense.

Some other notes:

The Giants also have brought back four of their own free agents -- running back Peyton Hillis, safety Stevie Brown, kicker Josh Brown and cornerback Trumaine McBride. All depth moves, though McBride and/or Brown could end up starting if other things don't work out.

Linebacker Jon Beason remains someone the Giants hope to re-sign, but because he's acting as his own agent, he wasn't allowed to have any contact with teams until 4 p.m. Tuesday (as opposed to noon Saturday, when agents were allowed to talk to teams but players weren't). So Beason is only 17 hours into his market, and he's wise to find out what that market is before just accepting what the Giants have to offer.

Two of the Giants' own free agents left -- defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the Vikings and safety Ryan Mundy to the Bears. As I wrote Tuesday night, I think they'll miss Joseph. At 25, I think he fits the profile of the kind of free agent you look to sign, rather than the kind you let walk out the door. But the Giants didn't feel like spending $6 million a year on a defensive tackle, so Joseph is gone.

With DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers getting cut Tuesday, the market for veteran pass-rushers is suddenly flooded with huge names. That would seem to mean Justin Tuck isn't likely to strike gold elsewhere. There was industry sentiment that Tuck won't find enough on the market to convince him to leave the Giants, and that he'd re-sign and try to play out his whole career with the same team. However, Adam Schefter reported late Tuesday that Tuck had a visit scheduled with the Raiders today, and no one has more to spend right now than the Raiders. They're also hosting pass-rusher LaMarr Woodley, but there's nothing to stop them from signing both Woodley and Tuck if they choose. So stay tuned on that.

I still think they need to add a center, and I don't think bringing back Kevin Boothe is the answer. They need to think about long-term solutions on the offensive line, and if Boothe and Chris Snee are two of their starters next year, I don't see how they're doing that. None of the free-agent centers signed Tuesday, though Evan Dietrich-Smith is visiting Tampa Bay today, so he could be off the market soon.

NFL Network reported that cornerback Tracy Porter was in for a visit Tuesday night. Ran back an Eli Manning interception for a touchdown for the Raiders in Week 10 last year. Along with his game-sealing interception touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV, that made him the first player to return both an Eli Manning interception and a Peyton Manning interception for a touchdown. Porter doesn't turn 28 until August and fits that same model of guys who have done something but may be on the cusp of more. He doesn't strike me as the answer if what they wanted was a top corner to pair with Prince Amukamara, but maybe they really see McBride as the outside starter again. I think they should be thinking bigger.

Other needs still to be addressed include wide receiver, tight end, middle linebacker (could be Beason), defensive line (Tuck or his replacement and a low-priced free-agent defensive tackle) and kick returner (could be Jacoby Jones, who's in for a visit Wednesday). The Giants entered the offseason in need of a full-on roster rebuild, and they've only been at it one day. Expect them to continue to be busy.
Former Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz is headed to New Jersey on Tuesday night and is in agreement with the New York Giants on a new contract, which he should sign no later than Wednesday. It's a good, strong first move for the Giants as they work to rebuild an offense line whose decay was the main reason for their disappointing 2013 season.

Schwartz
Schwartz turns 28 in July and started seven games for the Chiefs in 2013. He was a 16-game starter for Carolina in 2010 (five at right tackle, 11 at right guard) but missed the 2011 season with a hip injury. He spent 2012 with the Vikings and signed with the Chiefs a year ago, and by the second half of the season he was Kansas City's starter at right guard. He was Pro Football Focus' No. 8-rated guard in the league last year, grading out well as a run blocker and a pass blocker.

Schwartz is in line to start at guard for the Giants. As for which side, it's hard to say. Assuming Chris Snee is fully healthy, you'd expect him to resume his role as the starting right guard, which would make Schwartz the left guard. It's also possible they could try to see whether Schwartz can play center if they don't sign someone else for that. Kevin Boothe, who started games at left guard and center for the Giants last year, remains a free agent and could be re-signed as a starter at one of those positions.

It looks to me as though the Giants have signed a good, young player with high-end talent who may just be reaching his potential as an NFL starter. We'll see what the numbers are when they come in, but given the way the guard market was going Tuesday evening, a good guess is four or five years at $5 million or $6 million per year. Good signing at a position of significant need.

Giants offensive line tidbits

March, 10, 2014
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I have a source who has confirmed this New York Daily News report that the New York Giants have called to express interest in free-agent center Brian de la Puente, who was last with the New Orleans Saints. This source believes the Giants have called to express interest in quite a number of interior offensive linemen but was confirming the de la Puente interest because it already had been reported.

At this point, it's impossible to handicap the Giants' chances of signing de la Puente or even whether he's their first choice for center. The "legal tampering period" reports make it tough to know what to believe, because what you hear and read is only a sliver of the amount of activity that's actually going on.

But I have heard some things with regard to the Giants and the offensive line, so I will share them with you here, provided you promise not to fixate on specific names. There are a lot of moving parts, and the point of this analysis is that the likelihood of some moves depends on the way others break in the meantime. So without further ado:

Baas
The David Baas situation. The Giants are not averse to keeping Baas, though it would have to be at a lower salary than his currently scheduled $4.75 million for 2014. They have discussed with Baas a pay cut and also a restructure, and either option would reduce his 2014 salary-cap number. They also haven't ruled out releasing him, especially if a better option (de la Puente, for example) presents itself in the meantime. The Giants would save $1.775 million against the cap if they cut Baas, and they would save $5 million if they designated him a June 1 cut, as the Steelers did Monday with linebacker LaMarr Woodley. The issue could be one of leverage: Until the Giants have secured a new center, Baas can wait and hold them up on the salary as long as he's their best option. But that's a risky strategy, since he could find himself out of a job the minute they sign someone else.

UPDATE: The Giants have decided to release Baas before the start of free agency, which likely means they were encouraged by what they learned this weekend in terms of their chances to find a suitable replacement on the free-agent market.

Snee
The Chris Snee situation. The veteran right guard has said publicly he'll take a pay cut, and the Giants appreciate this because they don't know the extent to which they'll be able to count on Snee and his surgically repaired hips as a starter. Snee's decision to return for 2014 surprised some people around the Giants, though not necessarily unpleasantly. They are happy to have him if he's healthy enough to play, though his return doesn't preclude them from securing a young free-agent guard or drafting an offensive lineman to take his place, either now or eventually. Snee said recently that he would step aside and help as a tutor if a younger player came in and took his job, and his flexibility on these matters is an asset to the Giants as they make their offseason plans.

Boothe
The Kevin Boothe situation. I have heard conflicting things on Boothe from different sources. One person told me early in this process that the Giants weren't planning to bring back Boothe. Another has since told me they're amenable to bringing back Boothe but that they would prefer him as a backup at guard and center than as their starter at either position. As is the case with Baas, they appear to be holding off on doing anything with Boothe until they figure out whether they can do better. The difference is that Boothe is a free agent as of 4 p.m. ET Tuesday while Baas is still under contract. I just don't get the sense they would be devastated if someone else wanted to pay Boothe as a starter and they ended up having to replace him.

Free-agent possibilities. In addition to de la Puente, the Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith and the Patriots' Ryan Wendell have both come up in connection with the Giants in terms of centers. Wendell is likely a cheaper fallback option in case they get priced out of the high end of the center market. Guard possibilities continue to include the Chiefs' duo of Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, though Monday's rumblings indicate Atlanta as the front-runner for Asamoah. Recently released Davin Joseph and Uche Nwaneri are possibilities, but the Giants are hoping to sign players under 30 years old as they view the line situation as a long-term rebuild as much as a necessary short-term fix.
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports that the New York Giants will begin free agency next month by pursuing some of the top young guards on the market -- guys in their mid-20s to late-20s who rank among the best available at the position this offseason. He lists Kansas City's Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, the Chargers' Chad Rinehart, Denver's Zane Beadles and the Browns' Shawn Lauvao as possibilities. They're all between 25 and 28 years old, which is a smart age range at which to target free agents. In that age range, you can find players who have established themselves as capable, productive performers but who still have prime years left and are hungry to keep proving themselves.

So with David Diehl retiring, Chris Snee trying to work his way back from another hip surgery and Kevin Boothe also a free agent, this is a sensible way for the Giants to go, for sure. The Giants are invested in Will Beatty at left tackle for the long term, and they like 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh at right tackle for now, so they will focus on the interior of the offensive line, which was their greatest weakness last season.

What confuses me a bit is the David Baas situation, as I expected the Giants would move on from Baas and find a new center this offseason. This report here makes it sound as though they expect to keep Baas, as long as he comes back from his neck injury OK. But I think that'd be a bit of a mistake. The Giants have always seemed to like Baas more than the empirical evidence indicates they should, starting with when they signed him, so it's possible they could be holding on because they see something we don't. And if they are to cut him, he makes more sense as a June 1 cut, where he'd save them $5 million in 2014 cap space as opposed to the $1.8 million he'd save them if they cut him now. So maybe that decision comes later, with the potential re-signing of Boothe (who can play center) as a hedge in case they don't find Baas' replacement in the draft.

Either way, the Giants need to keep adding quality pieces to an offensive line that wasn't great to begin with in 2013 and offered very little help from the bench when the starters went down. This isn't about plugging a couple of holes; it's about improving the overall quality of a unit that's been neglected. Targeting the best guards available in free agency would be a fine start.
Your diligent use of the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter is what makes this weekly New York Giants mailbag possible. You complete me. Or at least you complete the mailbag. Or you start it and I complete it. Not really sure. There's too much snow.
The single most important thing for the New York Giants to do this offseason is put back together their offensive line. With Kevin Boothe a free agent and the contract situations of David Baas and Chris Snee in limbo, it looks as though they could need new starters at center and both guard spots. Free agency offers a chance to address, that, and here's a list of the top players available at those positions:

CENTER

1. Alex Mack, Cleveland. The top target, though the Browns and other teams will push hard. If the Giants are going to pay a premium price for a center, this is the guy to pay.

2. Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay. Like Mack, he'll be 28 when the season opens and in his prime. The Packers are likely to try to keep him.

3. Brian De La Puente, New Orleans. He turns 29 in May and the Saints have enough depth on the interior of their line that they could let him walk.

GUARD

1. Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City. Took over for Jon Asamoah in the second half and played well. Doesn't turn 28 until July.

2. Travelle Wharton, Carolina. He'll turn 33 in May, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 3 left guard in 2013.

3. Jon Asamoah, Kansas City. Schwartz outplayed him and maybe he'll want to leave town after having been benched.

Snee, Baas and Giants OL cap issues

January, 22, 2014
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There is a chance that Chris Snee, the longtime New York Giants guard, will retire this offseason after having had yet another hip surgery in October. Word from people who've talked to Snee is that he feels good, but that he hasn't yet decided whether he wants to keep playing. The idea of going through another rehab and the preparation required for an 11th NFL season may be too much at this point, especially when Snee factors in the requisite post-career quality-of-life questions.

But even if Snee doesn't retire, the Giants may end up having to replace him. Snee carries a salary cap charge of $11.75 million for 2014, the final year of his contract, and the team would save $7.25 million by releasing him. They can't carry him at his scheduled salary, and given his physical condition it doesn't make sense to give him an extension. So if he wants to keep playing and to play for the Giants, the most likely scenario is that he gets cut and re-signs on a one-year deal for considerably less money -- maybe something close to the veteran minimum.

Now, as you likely know, Snee's situation is not a black-and-white, dollars-and-cents issue. He is the husband of coach Tom Coughlin's daughter and the father of three of Coughlin's grandsons, who spend time around the team in training camp and during the season. The family connection is extremely important to Coughlin, and it's strong enough to affect the way the team proceeds with regard to Snee if he wants to return. The personal connection and the fact that Snee has many times helped the Giants with cap concerns by agreeing to contract restructures through the years make it unlikely that the team would just cut him loose. If he wants to be back, they'll probably bring him back to compete for a job. But at the very least, they have to be thinking long-term about replacing him.

Which would be one thing if it were the only issue they face on the interior of the line, but it's not. Center David Baas, who missed 13 games this past season due to injury, is another major contract problem that needs to be addressed. Baas has two years left on his five-year, $27.5 million deal. He carries a cap charge of $8.225 million for 2014 and $8.475 million for 2015. Untenable, especially given the way he's performed and his struggles to stay healthy. Cutting Baas only saves $1.775 million in cap room this year, but it saves them about $5 million in real money, and they could pocket about $5 million in cap savings if they designated him as a post-June 1 cut, though they wouldn't be able to apply that savings until June 2 if they did that. For that reason, the Giants may wait to make their decision on Baas until they see whether a clear upgrade presents itself in free agency or the draft. It's likely they can and will.

Which leaves Kevin Boothe, who was the starting left guard this year before moving over to center late in the season following season-ending injuries to Baas and backup Jim Cordle. Boothe is a versatile player the Giants like a great deal, but he's also a free agent, which offers the team the opportunity to upgrade his position if they so choose. Boothe is a strong candidate to return, but you could make the case that the line would be better with him as an all-purpose backup at guard and center than with him as one of its starters. With three interior line spots to address, they may have no other choice but to re-sign Boothe for low cost and plug him back in as a starter before upgrading the spot next year. But one of their goals this offseason should be to upgrade at center and both guard spots (assuming Snee isn't back). Their failures on offense in 2013 were tied directly to the disappointing performance of the offensive line. And with tackles Justin Pugh and Will Beatty locked in and not going anywhere, the focus is on getting better in the middle.
Four months ago, he ranked among the biggest question marks on the New York Giants' offense. But for a variety of reasons, some good and some bad, rookie right tackle Justin Pugh has turned out to be one of that offense's few known quantities.

The Giants' first-round pick from the 2013 draft, Pugh has started every game this season at right tackle. As befits a first-round rookie asked to start immediately, he's had some good days and some bad days, and he and the team enjoy the fact he's made steady progress.

[+] EnlargeJustin Pugh
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe offseason should bring about plenty of configuring for Giants coaches on where exactly Justin Pugh will play on the line in 2014.
"I think my knowledge of the playbook has gotten better each and every week, so I'm better at that," Pugh said Monday when asked how he's improved from Week 1 to Week 17. "I have to keep working on my hands and doing the right things with my hands and feet. That's just something you keep getting better at so you have that confidence to go out and and do the things you need to do. I still have a lot to learn this offseason. It's going to be a big offseason for me."

It's going to be a big offseason for the Giants' offensive line in general. Pugh and left tackle Will Beatty, who's been very disappointing in the first year of his five-year free-agent contract, are the only two current starters who are sure things to return in 2014. The line must and likely will be a prime focus for the Giants in free agency and the draft, and Pugh's place in the plans for 2014 and beyond is only one very interesting aspect of the whole situation.

The Giants are happy with Pugh at right tackle and could very well decide to leave him there. But the reason they drafted him in the first round this year wasn't necessarily to make him a starting right tackle right away and forever. It was because they didn't know what their line needs were going to be next year and into the future, and they believed Pugh to be the kind of smart, versatile, all-around talent who could play several positions. Many evaluators said prior to the draft that Pugh was better suited at guard at the NFL level due to relatively short arms. The Giants don't necessarily agree, but if they were to, say, draft a big-time tackle in the first round (where they'll pick somewhere between ninth and 15th), they could move Pugh inside. If he's effective at tackle, he could be downright dominant at guard, and adding a first-round talent at tackle would strengthen the talent level of the line overall.

And inside is where they need help. Injured starting center David Baas is a likely cap casualty. Longtime right guard Chris Snee is as well, and Snee has had enough hip surgeries the past two years to make one wonder if he might decide to retire. Kevin Boothe, who has played left guard and center this year, is a free agent. James Brewer doesn't look starter-ready, Jim Cordle didn't look like a long-term answer at center prior to his injury, and Brandon Mosley played one series before breaking his hand, so it's hard to know what they have there.

My guess is that they cut Baas loose and get a center on the free-agent market. I think they re-sign Boothe, since they like him and he's happy here, as a possible starter or at least a versatile backup at several positions. But on the right side, it's a mystery. I know what I think they should do, which is the thing I just said about drafting a tackle and moving Pugh inside. But I don't think they will do that, since it would be more in-character for them to use such a high pick on a marquee position like wide receiver or pass-rusher. So my early guess is that they look for economical solutions at guard and center on the free-agent market and leave Pugh at right tackle while hoping Beatty gets better.

The one issue that stands out as interesting on its own is that of Snee, who is the son-in-law of head coach Tom Coughlin and, as such, has ties to the organization that others don't. That dynamic, combined with the extent of Snee's service to the team, could affect the way the team makes decisions about that particular player. And the solution on Snee, whatever it turns out to be, will have a ripple effect across the line.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It has been a tough year for the New York Giants' offensive line, which has lost starting center David Baas, starting right guard Chris Snee and backup center Jim Cordle to season-ending injuries. Now, with a game looming Sunday against the formidable defensive front of the Detroit Lions, the Giants are dealing with more injuries along the line. Starting right guard David Diehl missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury, and left guard James Brewer missed practice with an ankle injury.

If neither can suit up Sunday, the most likely offensive line combination, left to right, would be Will Beatty/Dallas Reynolds/Kevin Boothe/Brandon Mosley/Justin Pugh.

Diehl said he hurt his knee during Sunday's loss to Seattle but kept playing in spite of feeling it swell up. He sounded optimistic about recovering in time for Sunday's game in Detroit.

"Hopefully I can keep making progress and I'll be rolling out there Sunday like normal," Diehl said.

When training camp started, Diehl was projected as the starting right tackle. But he broke his thumb in the preseason and rookie Pugh took over that spot. Diehl took the right guard spot when Snee got hurt. Boothe, originally the starting left guard, moved to center after the injuries to Baas and Cordle, and that elevated Brewer to a starting role.

It's been a season-long game of musical chairs, and quarterback Eli Manning has already taken a career-high 36 sacks. But the Giants continue to express confidence that they'll find reinforcements if they need to.

"It's the NFL," Boothe said. "So if you couldn't play, you wouldn't be in this room. We'll have five guys out there Sunday and we'll make it work."

Some New York Giants draft thoughts

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
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While it could still fluctuate wildly based on game results in the final three weeks of the season, the New York Giants currently occupy the No. 13 spot in the projected first-round order for the 2014 NFL draft. Looking at that list, you can see it's not crazy to imagine the pick getting as high as around 5 or dropping into the early 20s. But since 13 is where they sit right now, let's look at what they might be able to do with a pick like that.

What I think they should do: Offensive line. We've been over this, and I don't think it's what they'll actually do, since this year's pick of Justin Pugh broke a stretch of 13 years without a first-round offensive lineman. But if I were the Giants, I'd be hoping one of the better offensive linemen on my board was there when I was picking in the first round. They could conceivably need a new starting center and two new starting guards, but that immediate problem isn't as alarming as the fact that so little is in the developmental pipeline behind the guys (David Baas and Chris Snee, mainly) who got hurt this year and may not be back. Even if they re-sign Kevin Boothe (which would make sense), it's hard to see too many answers coming from the Jim Cordle/James Brewer/Brandon Mosley group. Taking a mid-first-round tackle would deepen them at offensive line, which they desperately need, and could help them stay flexible down the road if they decide Pugh (or the tackle they pick) is better suited for an inside spot or Will Beatty needs to be on the right side. Auburn tackle Greg Robinson ranks 14th on Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Big Board but hasn't yet decided if he'll enter the draft. Michigan's Taylor Lewan is another guy who could be around at that spot.

What I think they will do: Wide receiver. This is only if Hakeem Nicks leaves, but since I believe he will, this would be such a Giants thing to do. Even though the biggest problem for the passing game right now is the protection of Eli Manning, the temptation when you're building around a franchise quarterback is to add weapons for him. The Giants are thin at wide receiver even if Nicks does come back, but if he doesn't, they'll be looking for a big-play threat to replace what Nicks gave them before the injuries and the disappointing contract year. They need someone to take attention away from Victor Cruz, and so far they don't seem to see Rueben Randle as a true outside No. 1. Mel's got Clemson's Sammy Watkins and USC's Marqise Lee in his top 10, and if a guy like that fell to 13, you could easily see the Giants taking him and crowing about how much higher than that they had him ranked on their board.

Other notes and possibilities: As is the case with wide receiver, they need to add depth at defensive end and never seem to shy away from doing that. Especially if Justin Tuck leaves, this could become a major priority area worthy of addressing with the first-round pick... Someone like North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron would fit the "another weapon for Eli" bill as well... Defensive back is one of Jerry Reese's favorite positions to draft in the first round, but it doesn't look like there are too many great cornerback or safety options in the first half of this year's... The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks, so don't get too excited if you see a linebacker projected to them in any of the mock drafts.

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