New York Giants: Mark Herzlich

By using the franchise player designation on Jason Pierre-Paul on Monday, the New York Giants made sure their top free agent would be back in blue in 2015. But of the 18 other Giants players who are eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason, only wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has so far re-signed with the team. Here's a look at what we know about where things stand with some of the biggest remaining names on the Giants' free-agent list:

 S Antrel Rolle: This is an age-old story. Rolle wants to be back. The Giants want him back. But so far, they've been unable to agree on price, and Rolle looks likely to hit the market at 4 pm ET next Tuesday. He's a 32-year-old safety, and there generally isn't much of a market for those. But Rolle is selling himself as an unusual case -- a player who hasn't missed a game in five years and spent his time with the Giants winning a Super Bowl and emerging as a locker room leader. There are already rumblings that the Dolphins, who were a close runner-up to the Giants for Rolle's services five years ago, could be interested in bringing him home to Miami.

CB Walter Thurmond: The Giants signed him to a one-year contract last offseason and didn't even get two whole games out of him before a Week 2 injury ended his season. They have spoken with Thurmond about a return, but so far talks have gone nowhere, and he is expected to hit the market and sign elsewhere.

 DT Mike Patterson: He'll be 32 when the season starts, and the Giants aren't likely to have much a role for him as anything other than a rotational defensive tackle. But if he'll come back for something like what he made in 2014 ($855,000), Patterson is a guy the Giants like enough to bring back. They have had conversations this offseason about bringing back Patterson, and a deal could get done before free agency opens next week.

S Stevie Brown: Those eight interceptions from 2012 still resonate, but in truth there's been little evidence since to indicate whether Brown really is a starting NFL safety. He missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury, struggled and got benched at the start of 2014, then returned to the lineup and played just okay down the stretch. In a thin safety market, we have heard some talk that other teams could be interested in taking a look at Brown. And assuming he and his agent have heard the same, I'd expect them to check that out next week. The Giants could be in for a major overhaul at safety.

LB Jacquian Williams: The concussion issues that ended Williams' season likely will scare off outside suitors, and the Giants are in the best position to evaluate where things stand on that front. Assuming Williams is recovered, the Giants like the idea of a starting linebacker corps of Williams, Devon Kennard and either Jon Beason or Jameel McClain.

LB Mark Herzlich: He feels like a Giant-for-life kind of guy to me, and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't re-signed already.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Wednesday, the high-ranking NFLPA officials in the New York Giants' locker room basically offered the union's official reaction when asked about the NFL's new personal conduct policy. They were on the practice field when it was announced, hadn't had a chance to look at it yet and were upset that the league hadn't agreed to collectively bargain it with them.

A day later, after everyone had a chance to review the particulars of the policy itself, we went back to Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie and linebacker Mark Herzlich. Both serve on the union's executive council.

"It still ends the same way it always did," DeOssie said. "With Roger [Goodell] as the arbitrator. We want neutral arbitration, and that will continue to be our stance."

DeOssie said he also had issues with the idea of the league conducting its own independent investigations concurrent with law enforcement's investigations.

"Different laws in different states, things like that," he said. "We'd love more clarity on that, and I'm sure we'll get it, but that doesn't sit well. And then if the policy is universal for owners and team officials as well as players, how's it going to work when the arbitration officer is someone who's employed by the owners?"

Basically, the whole thing has left a sour taste in the union's mouth, and union leadership it taking the position that this was forced on them without their consent. As Herzlich pointed out, that's the league's right, per the collective bargaining agreement. He just doesn't think it was the wisest way for the league to go.

"The more channels it goes through, the more fair it seems to us," Herzlich said. "I think they're moving in the right direction in terms of changes. But at the same time, we want to have a say. I think it works best when we can all sit and talk about it."

Herzlich pointed out that the owners were willing to open up the collective bargaining agreement to rework the drug policy earlier this year in an effort to secure HGH testing. But the rebuttal to that is that the CBA contained a specific stipulation that allowed for that part of it to be renegotiated once a reliable HGH test was identified.

The result is that the players know they're stuck with the new policy, but they will push back if they believe there are parts of it that are unfair.

"If they do something that takes away players' rights unfairly, we will fight that, absolutely," Herzlich said. "That's a union's job. So we'll keep looking at it and we'll see where things go from here."
New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings made the trip to Tennessee with the rest of his team Saturday, and there remains a chance he could play in Sunday's game against the Titans.

Jennings is officially listed as questionable for the game with a sprained right ankle. He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday but practiced on a limited basis Friday, and the team was pleased enough with how he looked that it put him on the plane and will evaluate him before the game to see whether he can play.

Making the trip is no guarantee that Jennings will play -- tackle Justin Pugh traveled last week to Jacksonville but was still inactive for the game because of his quadriceps injury. But given the way things looked for Jennings earlier in the week, it has to be taken as an encouraging sign that he will get a shot to play against the No. 31-ranked Titans run defense.

Even if he does play, Jennings might not be 100 percent and could end up sharing carries with rookie Andre Williams and the recently signed Orleans Darkwa.

Tackle James Brewer, linebacker Mark Herzlich and linebacker Jacquian Williams, all of whom are dealing with concussion symptoms, did not make the trip to Nashville.

The Giants also promoted linebacker Paul Hazel from the practice squad and made a point of saying in that announcement that Hazel also plays defensive end. Hazel is a former Cleveland Browns special teams player who signed with the Giants' practice squad Tuesday -- the day they placed five players on injured reserve including defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers. Officially listing him as a LB/DE indicates the Giants think (hope?) he might be able to help as a pass-rusher, though the Herzlich and Williams injuries have left the Giants thin at linebacker as well.

To make room for Hazel on the active roster, the Giants waived defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Justin Pugh has started all 26 games at right tackle for the New York Giants since the start of his 2013 rookie season, but that streak looks likely to end Sunday night. Pugh, who came out of last Sunday's game against the 49ers with a quadriceps injury, missed practice for the second day in a row Thursday, and the team is preparing to play without him.

Options to play right tackle Sunday night against the Cowboys, assuming Pugh can't go, include Charles Brown (who took over Sunday with disastrous results), James Brewer and Geoff Schwartz.

Schwartz was signed in the offseason to play left guard but has yet to suit up for the Giants due to a late-preseason toe injury. He's eligible to play Sunday and has been working at guard and tackle in practice this week, but at this point he's not sure where or whether he'll play. Schwartz said he was still working on technique and conditioning following his long layoff, though his hope is to play a full game Sunday if they'll let him.

"I think I could do it," Schwartz said. "Until I do it, I don't really know. But I've done it before after being hurt. You just find ways to get through it. I'm a veteran and I could do it. The conditioning's the biggest thing. You have to find ways to make sure you don't get too tired in the first quarter."

Also sitting out practice Thursday were linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee). Williams is unlikely to play Sunday, and Mark Herzlich should get a second straight start in his place. Jenkins says he's feeling better and has a chance to practice Friday and play Sunday. Kiwanuka has been resting his knee once a week for several weeks now and he should be fine to play Sunday.

Beason may need season-ending surgery

October, 22, 2014
New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason was in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday to once again see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson about his persistent toe injury. In a radio interview Tuesday, Beason said a determination would be made Wednesday about whether to finally have season-ending surgery to repair the injury, which cost him all of training camp, three full games already this season and the second half of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

"It's gotten progressively worse over the last couple of games," Beason said on WFAN radio in New York. "Right now I'd say it's 50-50. I'm still deciding if the smart thing is to go ahead and get it fixed and get ready for next season."

Beason injured his toe in the spring and sat out all of training camp with the injury. He aggravated it in Week 2 and missed three games in a row (all of which, he jokingly pointed out last week, the Giants won) before returning in Week 6 in Philadelphia. He aggravated it again Sunday, prompting the latest doctor visit.

When Beason has not been on the field, Jameel McClain has moved to middle linebacker to replace him and either Devon Kennard or Mark Herzlich has replaced McClain as the strongside linebacker. The Giants have at least five defensive backs on the field enough, however, that they usually only need two linebackers on the field.

Still, they made re-signing Beason a priority in the offseason due to the effect his play and leadership at middle linebacker had on them after they acquired him in a trade in 2013. So their strong preference would be to have him healthy and available for the rest of the season. They may find out Wednesday that they don't.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Eagles have not dazzled the NFL this season the way they did last season. Offensive line issues and some struggles by quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy have sapped Chip Kelly's offense of some of its sizzle in the early going. And yet, the Eagles go into Sunday night's game against the New York Giants with a 4-1 record, which says a lot about what they've been able to do in one other key area of the game.

"They've won games on special teams," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You look at the San Francisco game, it's amazing -- punt return, blocked punt, interception return. They really didn't have much offense that day, but they had four shots at the end of the game to win the game. They've battled and they've scraped and they've been in every game and had a chance, really, to be 5-0."

The Eagles lost that game to the 49ers, but it featured two of the four special teams touchdowns they've had so far in this still-young season. Add in their three defensive touchdowns, and the Eagles have seven return touchdowns on the season. The Giants have allowed 10 return touchdowns (defensive and special teams combined) since the start of the 2013 season.

"They've been very productive, so you want to make sure you're ready for everything they've done," Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "The kickoff return, the punt return, the punt protection... that's all been emphasized this week."

The Giants have looked closely at each of the Eagles' special teams touchdowns and identified the specific mistake or breakdown that was made on each one. But the ultimate lesson isn't about specifics. It's about an ability to maintain focus and concentration and intensity on every play in order to avoid being beaten on any play.

"They're good at just doing their jobs and doing it consistently," Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "They wait on the other team to get bored, fall asleep, misalign, whatever, and then they take advantage."

Maybe more than any other game they play this season, the key in this one for the Giants will be to stay awake and alert on every single punt and kickoff. The Eagles aren't coming into this game hot on offense, but their return units are as hot as any in the league.

Beason inactive for Giants in Washington

September, 25, 2014
LANDOVER, Md. -- New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason will miss his second straight game because of a foot injury. He was listed as doubtful on the injury report Wednesday, but his name was on the list when the Giants announced their seven inactive players for Thursday night's game against Washington at FedEx Field.

The Giants had hoped Beason would be able to play after practicing a bit this week, but obviously the very short time between games made that even more challenging. It's possible the 10 days between this game and their next one will give him enough time to heal to the point in which he can play.

In his place, Jameel McClain will move over from strongside linebacker to start at middle linebacker and Mark Herzlich will start at strongside linebacker for the second game in a row. That role likely would have been rookie Devon Kennard's, but he's out for the third game in a row with a hamstring injury. Herzlich isn't an ideal solution, but he's stronger against the run than Spencer Paysinger or Dan Fox. The Giants play most of the game in a nickel defense, so they usually only have two linebackers -- McClain and Jacquian Williams, in this case -- on the field at a time. But when they are in their base defense, they have more faith in Herzlich's ability to stop the run than they do the other remaining linebacker options on their team.

Safety Stevie Brown is not injured, but he has officially lost his starting job, at least for this game. The Giants announced Quintin Demps as their starting free safety. More on that move here.

Giants-Redskins: Full list of inactives.

Giants practice report: Beason out

September, 17, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Injured New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason was not on the field during the extraordinarily brief portion of practice that was open to the media on Wednesday. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he wouldn't put anything past Beason and wouldn't rule out the possibility that he plays Sunday against the Texans, but that seems unlikely due to the foot injury Beason aggravated in Week 2 against the Cardinals.

The Giants said Tuesday that Beason might see a foot specialist this week, and obviously if he's not here, there's a chance he's doing that. More to come on that, but in the meantime with Beason and rookie Devon Kennard (hamstring) sitting out practice, the way in which the Giants will arrange their linebackers becomes an interesting question.

When Beason had to miss the preseason and training camp due to the foot injury, Jameel McClain moved over from his strongside linebacker position to the middle, and Kennard played on the strong side. Coughlin indicated in Wednesday morning's news conference that McClain and Mark Herzlich would be used in some combination to fill in for Beason and Kennard, though he did not go into detail. Herzlich has experience in the middle, but his shortcomings there last year were among the reasons the Giants felt a need to go out and trade for Beason.

Spencer Paysinger and Dan Fox are the backup options on the strong side, but neither is an option for the middle linebacker role.

In other injury news, first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr. was sprinting on a side field during practice, but Coughlin said there are no plans for Beckham to practice this week. Since the Giants play a Thursday game in Week 4 and he won't have had time to practice much if at all before then, the rookie wide receiver appears set to miss at least the next two games.

Punter Steve Weatherford also did not appear to be practicing Wednesday, though he missed time last week due to a sprained left ankle and still punted on Sunday.

Giants Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to make significant progress from the hamstring injury that has held him out of practice since the first day of camp. The team's first-round pick even took a couple of snaps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills and caught a touchdown pass on one of them. Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't even rule out the possibility that Beckham could play in Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis, though I have to think that's a long shot and that next Friday against the Jets is more likely.
  • Coughlin said left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride, who have been practicing but didn't play in the first two preseason games as part of the plan for their recoveries from offseason surgery, would play Saturday. He said to expect Beatty to play about as much as a starting offensive lineman would play in a first preseason game of the year. For comparison's sake, Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton played 20 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and right tackle Justin Pugh played 24.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond continues to dazzle, and I have to think it will be a huge relief for Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz to go up against whoever the Detroit Lions are using as a nickel cornerback Sept. 8 in Detroit. Thurmond's highlight plays Wednesday included a pass breakup on which he had tight end Larry Donnell blanketed over the middle and a stop on running back Rashad Jennings when Jennings caught a pass in the flat.
  • Other highlight plays: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard knocking rookie running back Andre Williams to the ground in the backfield on a run play; Rueben Randle's acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in one-on-one goal-line drills; Rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson ripping the ball out of wide receiver Travis Harvey's hands at the end of a long pass play; Interceptions of Curtis Painter by Mark Herzlich and Chandler Fenner in early team drills.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was back at practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a knee injury. New to the list of injured players sitting out practice was cornerback Zack Bowman (unclear what his injury was). Also sitting out were running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder).
  • Cruz, who had some knee issues in practice this week, seemed completely fine and appeared to do everything in Wednesday's relatively short practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice here next week as they have been, Thursday marks the final official day of Giants training camp. That means Thursday's 1:20 pm practice will be the final practice of the year that is open to the public. So take off work and come out to say hi. Tell your boss I said it was okay.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Never let it be said that I'm not here to serve the people. Every day of training camp, the New York Giants' media relations staff asks us for lists of players we'd like to speak to, and then they work on bringing those players out to us for interviews. Wednesday, I was struggling for ideas and therefore struggling to decide which players to request, and as this was happening I got this from Twitter follower Kevin Oakes:

So I asked to talk to some linebackers, and I got some decent stuff.

With starting middle linebacker Jon Beason still working his way back from a foot injury suffered in the spring, the most likely Week 1 starting lineup for the Giants at linebacker is Jameel McClain in the middle, Jacquian Williams on the weak side and rookie Devon Kennard on the strong side. Spencer Paysinger could overtake Williams on the weak side, but after years of using Williams as a weakside backer in nickel situations, the Giants' coaches now say they're ready to trust him on all three downs. Once Beason returns, the most likely result is that McClain moves back to the strong side, but it's not out of the question to think Kennard could hold him off. The rookie has been impressive.

So here are some thoughts from and/or about the three men likely to be the Giants' starting linebackers on Monday, Sept. 8 in Detroit.

Jacquian Williams

It seems like a long time ago that Williams was one of the heroes of the Giants' NFC Championship Game victory over the 49ers in San Francisco, stripping the ball from return man Kyle Williams and setting up the game-winning possession in overtime. He missed six games the following season to injury and was a rotational player for the Giants in 2013. But he says he thinks back on that 2011-12 postseason for inspiration.

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaJacquian Williams seems ready to take on more responsibility in his fourth season.
"I remember that Super Bowl," Jacquian Williams said Wednesday. "I'm a rookie, and there's two minutes left. Two minutes left! It was a big deal. And I kind of was still trying to find myself as a rookie. You know, it's the Super Bowl. Big time. And (linebackers coach Jim Hermann) says, 'Jacquian! Jacquian! Go out there!' And I'm looking like, 'Huh?' And he's like, 'Go out there!' And that there was a big moment for me as far as knowing I definitely belong here. Even though I had had my flashes and everything throughout the year as a rookie, that was a turning point."

It has taken a while to go from fun, useful rookie to NFL starter, but Williams believes he's completed the journey and he knows what the difference is between now and then.

"Trust," Williams said. "Trust from the team, and not only the coaches, but the players. My teammates are trusting me to be in that role. They speak up for me more at times. And overall, my confidence. My personal confidence for the game, for the position. And experience."

Beason said he thinks Williams and Paysinger both have made big leaps from last season to this season.

"I really feel they're ready to contribute and take that big step to where they can be dominant linebackers in this league," Beason said. "Because they have all the intangibles, and they have the experience now, which is the most important thing. You can't expect a guy to go out there in his first couple of games starting, ever, and kill it. But last year they both made splash plays, and I think this year they're ready to be consistent."

Devon Kennard

The 174th overall pick of this year's draft -- one of two fifth-rounders the Giants had this year -- Kennard didn't seem likely to be a big-splash guy this summer. But goodness, has he been the talk of the defense since OTAs.

[+] EnlargeDevon Kennard
Julie Jacobson/AP PhotoThe coaching turmoil at USC might have been a blessing in disguise for Devon Kennard.
"Great rookie. Very polished, more so than anything," Beason said. "Not just his physical attributes, but the way he prepares. As a rookie, that's kind of unheard of. You don't really see a guy come in and put the time in making calls and doing those little things. Most guys, it takes them a long time. But he's polished, and he's going to help us out a lot this year, Kennard."

Beason said he thinks Kennard benefited from all of the coaching staff turnover and turmoil that happened during his time at USC. Recruited by Pete Carroll, he played most of his USC career for Lane Kiffin after Carroll left for the Seahawks, then had three different head coaches last year after the Kiffin thing fell apart and Ed Orgeron resigned before the bowl game because he didn't get the full-time job replacing him.

"I moved around a lot," Kennard said.

He has been a standup outside linebacker, a standup inside linebacker, a pass-rusher ... you name it. And being an overall student of defense has helped him get rise quickly since the draft.

"I ask a lot of questions, and I spend a lot of time in my playbook," Kennard said. "I try to understand as much as I can, and as more and more goes in, I try to keep it organized in my mind and constantly go over things so I can play as fast as I can when it's time to practice and play in games. It's a work in progress, but I'm working every day."

At this point, if something happened to McClain before Beason returned, Kennard would be the next guy they put in at middle linebacker. They already trust him with the on-field organizational responsibilities associated with that position.

Jameel McClain

"Jameel is a proven vet, very vocal, and he's going to help us out big time, especially at that Mike position, getting guys lined up," Beason said.

They didn't bring McClain out to talk to me, so that's about all I have on him. But his presence on the roster is a sign that the Giants have changed the way they look at this position. They went for cheap solutions for years. Williams, Paysinger and Mark Herzlich, a special-teams ace and backup linebacker, were all rookies in that same 2011 season. Of the three, Williams was the only one who was drafted, and they got him in the sixth round.

But after Beason took over as a leader on defense at a critical time last season, the Giants reconsidered their view of the value of spending resources on linebackers. They re-signed Beason, drafted Kennard and signed McClain, who provides a veteran presence they need on the field as long as Beason is on the shelf.

This position group might not be a clear strength of the team the way cornerback is. But gone are the days it stands out as a clear and damaging weakness (the way, say, tight end is). If nothing else, this year's Giants linebacker group is interesting, and offers reason to hope it might be fun.
Two weeks ago, we took a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' offense heading into training camp. We're doing the same with the defense this week, one position group per day. Today, it's the linebackers' turn.

Projected starters: Jon Beason (inj.), Jameel McClain, Jacquian Williams

Projected backups: Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Devon Kennard

Others competing for spots: Spencer Adkins, Justin Anderson, Dan Fox, Terrell Manning

Beason is hoping to return in time for Week 1 and resume his starting middle linebacker role. If he can't, McClain will move to the middle and either Paysinger or Kennard would start in his place on the strong side. Williams is the leading candidate to start on the weak side, though Paysinger could beat him out for that spot in camp. Even if that happens, the Giants likely would still use Williams on the weak side when they go to their nickel packages.

Herzlich hasn't contributed much as a linebacker, but he's a decent enough backup and his performance on special teams likely makes his spot on the roster safe. Kennard was a fifth-round pick this year and opened eyes in minicamp. He could move up the depth chart quickly. Among the others, Fox is somewhat interesting, but it's a tough road for anyone from that group to make a roster that's going to have to strain to carry six linebackers as is.
So yeah. Took a little vacation time last week. Relaxed, unplugged, all that good stuff. Figured I'd catch up on the New York Giants when I got back to work this morning, see who got the latest drug suspension, stuff like that...

Wait. Jon Beason broke his foot in organized team activities?

Well, that's not good.

The team-issued prognosis indicates Beason will certainly miss all of training camp and quite possible the season opener as he heals, and that's a blow. The Giants finally invest in a linebacker and he breaks his foot in OTAs. Can't make this stuff up.

We've written and talked a lot about Beason as a team leader, which he was instantly upon arrival from Carolina last October, and that's going to be difficult to replace. His intelligence and his ability to get and keep things organized from play-to-play in the front seven was something that stood out. He also played quite well, showing surprising speed, good instincts for the ball and a toughness that helped fortify those leadership credentials. When your teammates see you, as a 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker, willing to take on a 300-pound offensive tackle in the open field, that gets their attention. The Giants will miss Beason for however long he's out and will be eager to get him back as soon as possible.

Meantime, who plays middle linebacker? The options don't look fantastic. Mark Herzlich has played it, but not so well that the team didn't feel the need to go out and get Beason last year. Rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard apparently worked in Beason's place last week after the injury, but that'd be a lot to ask of a rookie fifth-rounder. Jameel McClain, signed from the Ravens to play one of the outside linebacker spots, said two weeks ago he's been working alongside Beason and helping make the calls. But McClain doesn't profile as a three-down playmaker on the inside.

If you want to look on the bright side, it's easy to say that they were able to fix a middle linebacker problem last year by trading a seventh-rounder for Beason, and that there will be options on the market for a good price. But the Cowboys have been looking for the same thing since Sean Lee got hurt a few weeks back, and they haven't turned up much. The Giants got a real gem in Beason and are unlikely to replicate that success if they have to go out on the market and find a replacement for him this year.

Twitter mailbag: Backup QB intrigue

April, 12, 2014
Herewith, our weekly presentation of the four best New York Giants Twitter questions I got this week using the #nygmail hashtag. Enjoy.


Giants re-sign LB Mark Herzlich

March, 7, 2014
Yes, the New York Giants have re-signed one of their linebackers. No, it's not the one fans have been hoping they'd re-sign. While they continue to work on bringing back Jon Beason before he hits the open market Tuesday, the Giants announced Friday that they have agreed to a new deal with Mark Herzlich, whose inability to handle the starting middle linebacker job was one of the reasons the Giants traded for Beason during the 2013 season.

While he has not developed into a starter, Herzlich has been a useful player for the Giants. He's one of their best special-teams players and led the team with 14 special-teams tackles in 2013, and he's proven to be a useful reserve linebacker as well. Herzlich was a restricted free agent, so the Giants could have tendered him a contract and seen whether anyone else tried to sign him, but instead he's locked up for 2014.

Earlier this week, the Giants tendered restricted free-agent linebacker Spencer Paysinger, which means he's almost certain to be back in 2014, and they hosted recently released former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit. McClain is a potential fallback at middle linebacker if they don't sign Beason, but they would prefer him as a strongside linebacker with Beason (or some better Beason replacement) in the middle. McClain has spoken to Buffalo and other teams as well.

The Giants have until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday to sign Beason if they want to keep him off the open market. While teams are allowed to start contacting the agents for other teams' free agents at noon ET on Saturday, Beason is representing himself. Therefore, the rules prohibit him from talking to any team but the Giants until the start of the new league year, which is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
So in addition to the 23 unrestricted free agents they have, the New York Giants have four restricted free agents. And in advance of Tuesday's start of the free-agent market, the Giants are taking care of some business with regard to at least three of those four.

Per fitness enthusiast Eb Samuel of the New York Daily News, the Giants have decided to put a right-of-first-refusal tender of $1.431 million on linebacker Spencer Paysinger. This allows the Giants to match any offer Paysinger might get on the open market and establishes what they'll pay him if he doesn't get any. The risk is that they forfeit the right to draft-pick compensation if they lose Paysinger to another team (since they'd be making the choice to do so), but Paysinger isn't likely to draw much interest. This basically allows the Giants to budget for a guy they'd be happy to start at one of their outside linebacker spots but aren't averse to replacing if they find better options.

Earlier in the week, the Giants decided not to tender fullback Henry Hynoski or center Jim Cordle. That doesn't mean those guys are gone; simply that they can be free agents if they so choose. The Giants like fullback John Conner, and would bring back Hynoski to compete with him in camp at a very low price, but they've decided they're OK if Hynoski wants to look elsewhere. Likewise, they don't hate Cordle, but as they work on rebuilding the interior of their offensive line, they recognize him as a replaceable backup piece.

The Giants' other restricted free agent is linebacker Mark Herzlich, who likely isn't a huge priority unless they fail to re-sign Jon Beason and can't find any other options on the market at middle linebacker. We all know the Giants don't spend big on linebacker, so if they fail to sign Beason, it's unlikely they'd spend big to replace him. They might decide to give Herzlich another shot and, if he doesn't work out, find someone during the season the way they got Beason for a seventh-round pick in early October last year. But I think they'll sign Beason and it'll be moot.