New York Giants: Michael Boley

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.
Eli ManningTim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER/USA TODAY SportsEli Manning and the Giants report to camp in East Rutherford, N.J., on Friday.
It's that time of the year again.

"Steppin' to the AM" means only one thing -- training camp is here. For those of you who don't know, I'm an old school hip-hop head. So the daily camp morning prep blog is named after 3rd Bass' song. We're all family here at the Giants blog so leave comments, let me know what you want to read about in camp and ask any questions you may have.

In case you missed it: So, it's time to get you ready for camp. Here's 10 issues facing the Giants heading into camp.

Also, John Mara believes this team can be as good as the 2011 team that at one point was 7-7 but got hot and won it all.

And, Antrel Rolle plans on being even more of a leader this season with vets such as Chris Canty, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley, Kenny Phillips and Chase Blackburn gone. I believe Rolle is going to have to have a major impact on and off the field for the Giants this season.

Finally, the Giants also signed their two remaining unsigned draft picks -- Justin Pugh and Ryan Nassib.

On deck: The Giants report to camp Friday and have a conditioning evaluation test scheduled for 4 p.m. We'll talk to Tom Coughlin and select players afterward, so check back at the blog throughout the day and later in the afternoon.

In the meantime, celebrate the start of training camp, which officially begins on Saturday with the first practice.

Camp preview: 10 hottest issues

July, 23, 2013

The New York Giants open camp with their first practice on Saturday.

Here are some pressing issues Tom Coughlin's team will face in camp:

1. JPP's back injury: Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery in the offseason and might not be ready for the season opener. Mathias Kiwanuka will start until JPP is healthy. Pierre-Paul's timetable for recovery has him potentially being ready for the season opener, but the Giants should be cautious with their franchise defensive end. JPP's health could decide just how good the Giants will be defensively this season.

2. Hakeem Nicks' health: Nicks is entering the final year of his deal, and it's a big year for him. He did not participate in voluntary OTAs this offseason; one positive is that Nicks did not risk potential injury. A healthy Nicks is critical for the Giants' success this season after the offense struggled with him laboring through knee and foot injuries last year. Expect Nicks to be cautious to make sure he enters this contract year healthy and at full strength. Health, overall, is a major issue with the Giants since G Chris Snee and C David Baas also are coming off offseason surgeries.

3. Right tackle: Who will start? David Diehl enters camp as the starter and likely favorite, but he might have to hold off first-round pick Justin Pugh and James Brewer. The Giants coaching staff values Diehl's experience and versatility. Pugh is a first-round pick for a reason, but the Giants typically like to develop their rookies before playing them a ton of snaps.

4. Reviving the pass rush: Justin Tuck, JPP and Kiwanuka have to get after the quarterback. And a fourth pass-rusher must emerge with Osi Umenyiora gone. Adrian Tracy, Damontre Moore, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo will all have opportunities to show what they can do in camp.

5. Stopping the run: The Giants struggled against the run last year and finished 31st overall in total defense. Co-owner John Mara wanted his team to fortify the defensive line and Jerry Reese signed Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, re-signed Shaun Rogers and drafted Johnathan Hankins to beef up the front line.

6. Secondary: Corey Webster needs a bounce-back season after struggling last year. Prince Amukamara also has to continue to ascend. The Giants brought back Aaron Ross to join Jayron Hosley for depth. And Terrell Thomas is making another comeback. Still, the Giants' secondary can't afford many injuries. While it should be better than last season, it remains to be seen how much more improved the secondary will be. The Giants can use some surprises in camp to emerge as backups to strengthen the depth.

7. Linebacker: Who will replace Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley? Mark Herzlich and Dan Connor hope to fill Blackburn's cleats at middle linebacker and will be two participants in one of the most-watched competitions of camp. It's a big season for Jacquian Williams. If he can stay healthy, he could be a three-down linebacker. The Giants will also depend on Keith Rivers and need him to stay injury-free. Spencer Paysinger could be a dark horse for more snaps and Aaron Curry hopes to realize his potential with the Giants.

8. Replacing Ahmad: Can David Wilson and Andre Brown fill the Ahmad Bradshaw void? Wilson should inherit Bradshaw's starting spot, but Coughlin will likely split carries between Wilson and Brown. And Brown plans on pushing Wilson for the starting job. The two combined should make for a nice one-two punch, especially if Wilson can pass-protect. And at fullback, tight end Bear Pascoe likely will fill in until the injured Henry Hynoski is ready to return from offseason knee surgery.

9. One more time: A few long-time veteran Giants need to step up in what could be their last go-around with the team in the final year of contracts. Tuck, Diehl and Webster -- three Giants who helped the franchise win two Super Bowls -- could all be entering their final seasons as Giants. They are loaded with pride and are highly motivated to lead the Giants back to the postseason.

10. Victor Cruz: The salsa is here to stay after Cruz re-signed with the team. But he missed all of OTAs and minicamp. He has some catching up to do, but it shouldn't be an issue considering his outstanding chemistry with Eli Manning. Cruz also looked to be in excellent shape.

Camp preview: Linebackers

July, 23, 2013
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Linebacker.

Projected starters: OLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Keith Rivers.

Projected reserves: MLB Dan Connor, OLB Spencer Paysinger, LB Aaron Curry, LB Jake Muasau, LB Kyle Bosworth, LB Etienne Sabino.

New faces: Connor, Curry, Bosworth, Sabino.

Going, going, gone: Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn.

Player to watch: Williams. He took things slowly in OTAs and minicamp with a PCL injury suffered from last season. If he can remain healthy this season, Williams could emerge as the team's most important linebacker. He is capable of playing all three downs and being the linebacker used by Perry Fewell in passing situations alongside a third safety/defensive back that could potentially be Ryan Mundy, Cooper Taylor or Terrell Thomas. Rivers is capable of doing the same but the Giants have always liked Williams' speed and ability to cover tight ends. The question is Williams' health and if he can show his potential over a full season in a starting role. If Williams misses any time due to injury, Rivers' importance only increases that much more. And the team is counting on Rivers this season already. Paysinger, who worked with the starters in the offseason, is a dark horse. Any time Williams misses means more time for Paysinger.

Potential strength: Youth and speed. The Giants lost a lot of experience this offseason when they released Boley and Blackburn left in free agency. And Mathias Kiwanuka is moving back to defensive end. But they should be a quicker unit with Williams and Rivers playing more snaps. The Giants also are confident Herzlich or Connor can handle the middle linebacker duties Blackburn had last season. If Curry shows any of the potential that made him the fourth overall pick in the draft in 2009, Jerry Reese will have a steal.

Potential weakness: Experience and health. Boley and Blackburn helped the Giants win a Super Bowl just two years ago. Both were an extension of Fewell on the field. The Giants lost a lot of starting experience. Also, health is a major factor with the Giants linebackers. Williams missed six games and Rivers missed five last season due to injuries. Those two are going to be key to whether the Giants' linebackers have a successful season. But if they miss any time, Paysinger and Curry will have to step in. And there's the unknown at middle linebacker as well.

Wild card: Herzlich. He enters camp as the starter at middle linebacker and he'll have to hold off Connor and possibly Curry as well. He has impressed coaches thus far with his handle on the defense and poise in the huddle. While the middle linebacker may play two downs and then come out on passing situations, Herzlich has the potential to be a factor against the run –- an area the Giants have put great emphasis on this offseason.

Let us know what your thoughts are on the linebackers entering camp.
Justin Tuck knows the New York Giants will go as far as Eli Manning takes them.

Still, the defensive captain wants his unit to start thinking that it must carry the Giants and not have to rely on the offense to lead the way to victory.

“I hope this defense can carry the team,” Tuck said last week at the Big Daddy Celebrity Golf Classic at Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y. “Every time we go out on the field this year, we can’t think that [the offense will carry the team].”

[+] EnlargeJusin Tuck
Elsa/Getty ImagesJustin Tuck has a new task for the defense to tackle.
“We have to think like we are going to carry this team,” Tuck added.

Last season, the Giants averaged 26.8 points, sixth best in the NFL. The defense allowed 21.5 points to finish 13th among defenses. But the Giants finished 31st in total yards allowed (383.4), 28th in passing yards allowed (254.2) and 25th in rushing yards allowed (129.1).

GM Jerry Reese made changes to the defense in the offseason. Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley, Kenny Phillips, Chase Blackburn and Chris Canty are gone.

Reese focused on beefing up his defensive line by adding defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and drafting Johnathan Hankins. He brought back Aaron Ross and Shaun Rogers and signed Aaron Curry and Dan Connor, among other moves.

But Tuck thinks the Giants can also improve from within by altering their mindset. He wants his defense to adopt an old school Giants' defensive mentality and stop relying so much on the offense.

“That might be something we lack because our offense is so good, thinking to ourselves that we can kind of give up this and that,” Tuck said. “[We have] to kind of get away from that and approach the game in a way that those '80’s teams did with [Lawrence Taylor] and all those guys.

“They went out into a game trying to kill an offense and not give them anything,” Tuck continued. “We have to get back to that on defense. I don’t care if our offense puts up 40 points a game. We have to put up six.”

Tell us what you think of the Giants' defense this season.

Coach talk: Herrmann on linebackers

June, 20, 2013
With the Giants off until training camp, we're periodically taking a look at what the coaches are saying about how their positions looked this offseason in OTAs.

Today, we look at Jim Herrmann's thoughts on the linebackers.

G-Unit: The linebackers are expected to be the most heavily competitive position group in training camp.

Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Keith Rivers could enter camp as the starters in the Giants' base defense. But, Perry Fewell used Herzlich, Rivers and Spencer Paysinger as the starters in OTAs and minicamp while Williams was limited as he recovers from a PCL knee injury from last year.

[+] EnlargeSpencer Paysinger, Keith Rivers and Mark Herzlich.
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsSpencer Paysinger (52) , Keith Rivers (55) and Mark Herzlich (58) are vying for starting jobs.
Herrmann said the most important thing, in the wake of changes to the linebackers group, is developing a cohesive unit. Mathias Kiwanuka is moving back to defensive end and Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley are no longer with the team.

"This is basically a new group of guys," Herrmann said recently. "And I think the biggest thing right now is we are going out and learning what to do and competing. To me, the competition is going to keep going and keep going and keep going –- which is going to make us all better."

Situational subs: Herrmann was asked whether situations will dictate who plays at linebacker.

Is it possible that Herzlich could start at middle linebacker in some games, based on the opponent's tendencies, and the following week a new starter could be in there against a different type of offense?

"I think that is a big part of the NFL game today," Herrmann said. "It is very situational. It is dictated a lot by the offense -– what is the offense running? Who is going to be out there? What are our best matchups? Because the NFL is a game of matchups."

Perhaps the Giants can go with Herzlich, Dan Connor and Aaron Curry at middle linebacker depending on the type of offense they are facing on a given Sunday. In passing situations when the Giants use two linebackers, Fewell could go with Williams, Rivers and/or Paysinger.

Spencer for hire: If Paysinger continues to impress in camp, the formerly undrafted linebacker out of Oregon could surprise and win a starting outside linebacker spot. At the very least, Paysinger should see more snaps this season than he has in his three-year career.

Paysinger will have to contend with the likes of Williams, Rivers and Curry, among others.

"He is doing a good job," Herrmann said of Paysinger. "He is competing for the job. To me, the biggest thing I have seen was his maturity level, because he is comfortable with the formation. Now he is going to go out and take the next step forward because he is anticipating the plays faster and faster.

"He's not worried about, 'What do I do in this defense?' It is, 'OK, I know what I am doing -– now what is the offense going to do?' And he is anticipating. And all of those guys have done a much better job of that."

Tell us how you feel about the linebackers situation and how you want to see Fewell use his linebackers.
Charles Woodson is one of the many veteran free agents still available, and the Giants are always in the market for veterans on the cheap.

Woodson's agent, Carl Poston, told ESPN's Josina Anderson that "The Giants have just put their toe in the water again for Charles Woodson."

If Woodson, 36, is willing to accept an affordable deal, the move makes sense. If healthy, Woodson would be an intriguing piece.

He could instantly be one Perry Fewell's top three safeties. He would provide the kind of veteran voice and leadership that the team had when Deon Grant was roaming around as the third safety. Woodson would immediately add to the leadership in a locker room that lost Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty, Osi Umenyiora, Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley and Kenny Phillips this offseason.

And if he's still playing at a high level, Woodson could challenge Stevie Brown to start opposite Antrel Rolle. He could also provide the team with a veteran who can play corner if needed, be but my guess is he would be a safety and help cover if needed in certain packages or in case of injuries to other corners.

Woodson recently left a visit with the Broncos without a deal, according to the Denver Post. And he also reportedly has the Panthers and Raiders interested in him. So he might have options.

It remains to be seen just how interested the Giants are, but it certainly doesn't hurt to look.

Hightower update: Another veteran free agent the Giants have been interested in is running back Tim Hightower. The Washington Post reports that the Giants and Redskins are interested in Hightower. The Post says that the Giants could meet with Hightower again in a couple of weeks, according to a source.

Hightower tore his ACL in 2011 with the Redskins and attempted a comeback, but was released last year in final cuts. If healthy, Hightower could provide the Giants with a third running back who can catch out of the backfield. At the moment, the Giants have Da'Rel Scott, Ryan Torain and seventh-round pick Michael Cox behind David Wilson and Andre Brown.

Tell us if you want to see the Giants go after Woodson and how you think he might help.

To Te'o or not to Te'o?

April, 25, 2013
All the speculation ends tonight and the New York Giants will finally make their first-round pick.

One name so many want to know about is Manti Te'o. A source tells the Giants are unlikely to take the Notre Dame linebacker in the first round. Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker, Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro and LSU safety Eric Reid are on the Giants' board.

Now, if Te'o makes it out of the first round and drops, perhaps he could enter the discussion for the Giants. The Giants have a need to add another linebacker in this draft and they did have Te'o in for a visit which Jerry Reese described as positive. But there's always a chance that Michael Boley could return later as well.

But what I want to know is: Do you want the Giants to take Te'o at 19? Or not?

Notebook: Mathieu thinks Giants will pass

April, 25, 2013
Tyrann Mathieu met with the New York Giants at the Senior Bowl and the combine.

He thinks the Giants are "interested." But he also believes Jerry Reese will pass on the Honey Badger.

"I think they're interested but I think they're gonna play their cards right," Mathieu said at the ESPN Pre-Draft party on Wednesday night. "I don't think they'll draft me. I don't think they're that interested. It's just my gut feeling."

The Giants certainly can use another cornerback for depth. Mathieu was also a dynamic returner -- something the Giants can use -- when he was a Heisman candidate at LSU before he was dismissed from the team.

Mathieu would also have a mentor on the Giants in Corey Webster, who has taken him under his wing already. But on the eve of the draft, Mathieu thinks the Giants will pass. Perhaps that might have to do with where he thinks he will ultimately be picked in the draft.

"I expect to go in the first round, yes I do," Mathieu said when asked if he thinks he's a first-round pick. "I think I'm a first-round talent, but I think I'll fall to the second."

Boley chatter: There was chatter at the ESPN Pre-Draft party that the Giants could potentially bring back Michael Boley. The Giants released Boley in February in a cap-clearing move.

Bringing back Boley makes sense since he knows the Giants defense and what Perry Fewell expects. Let's see what happens in the draft and if the Giants select a linebacker at some point.

RB talk: Running backs coach Jerald Ingram attended the party and he said that David Wilson and Andre Brown will compete for the starting job.

"It's open for a competition," Ingram said, repeating the team's mantra for several positions.

Ingram has liked what he has seen so far from Wilson mentally, as far as protecting Eli Manning. But the Giants will certainly want to see it on the field.

When asked about Brandon Jacobs potentially returning, Ingram said the veteran wants to return and that the Giants brass has considered it.

"He's got a strong love for the New York Giants," Ingram. "That's a decision that ownership and Jerry Reese will make a decision on in due time. I think they may have considered it. But you have some people in place right now and you want to see what they can do. But anybody who can assist us would be an added help."

Draft positional preview: Linebacker

April, 23, 2013
This is the eighth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Linebacker.

Depth chart: Jacquian Williams, Dan Connor, Keith Rivers, LB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, Jake Muasau.

The departed: Michael Boley (free agent), Chase Blackburn (Carolina).

[+] EnlargeAlec Ogletree
AP Photo/Dave MartinAlec Ogletree is the kind of athlete the Giants like, but does he bring too much off-field baggage?
Scouting report: The Giants went out and added beef to the front line by signing defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and re-signing Shaun Rogers to try to stop the run.

They made three moves at linebacker: releasing Boley in a cost-cutting move, re-signing Rivers and adding Connor. Kiwanuka seems likely to move back to defensive end to help offset the loss of Osi Umenyiora in free agency. If Williams and Rivers can remain healthy, they give the Giants good speed on defense and are candidates to play on passing downs when Perry Fewell can go with three safeties on the field. Paysinger also could get an opportunity to see more snaps.

The Giants are hoping Connor will be a good fit for their scheme. Herzlich could compete with Connor for the starting middle linebacker job. Muasau left a positive impression on the coaching staff in rookie camp last year.

The last time: The Giants last drafted a linebacker in 2011 when they took Greg Jones and Williams in the sixth round.

Potential targets: Since Antonio Pierce went down with a career-ending injury in 2009, the Giants have pretty much tried filling the middle linebacker spot with minor signings in free agency or mid-to-late draft picks. The organization does not value the position in the same manner as pass rusher or cornerback when it comes to first-round picks.

The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1984 when they took Carl Banks out of Michigan State.

This year, the Giants will likely have at least two prospects available when they draft at 19. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o are the best inside linebackers and they are widely considered to go in the neighborhood of where the Giants are picking.

But would the coaching staff play Ogletree or Te'o this season ahead of Connor or Herzlich? And in 2014 and beyond, would either prospect play more than two downs and be used on passing downs by the Giants? Will the Giants get the kind of value they need at 19 by picking a linebacker as opposed to picking an offensive lineman, pass rusher or cornerback that they will need in 2014 and beyond?

Both also have had to deal with some off-the-field issues. Ogletree was arrested for DUI in February and he was suspended for four games last season for reportedly failing a drug test. Te'o was the center of an Internet-girlfriend hoax that became national news.

Ogletree, though, sounds like the kind of athlete the Giants can use, a converted safety -- GM Jerry Reese likes guys who played multiple positions in the past -- who can fly and deliver big hits. Te'o could also have the kind of on-field leadership qualities the Giants find appealing.

Reese has drafted eight linebackers (if you include Adrian Tracy, who now is a defensive end) since he took over as GM in 2007. So while he doesn't use first-round picks on linebackers, he could certainly draft one later on.

If the Giants pass on linebacker at 19, LSU’s Kevin Minter could be an option in the second round. As far as outside linebackers, Kansas State's Arthur Brown and UConn's Sio Moore also could be options.

Some mid-round prospects could include North Carolina's Kevin Reddick, Rutgers' Khaseem Greene, Southern Mississippi's Jamie Collins, Florida State's Brandon Jenkins, Oregon's Kiko Alonso, South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman, Florida's Jonathan Bostic and Texas A&M's Sean Porter.

The Giants have shown some interest in Ohio State's Nathan Williams, who could be a late-round target.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 8.

Draft preview: Giants defense/special teams

April, 16, 2013
At the end of the Giants' failed 2012 title defense, Jerry Reese made it clear that he felt the roster was not "that far off" from contending again.

But the disappointed general manager said his team "will look a little differently" in 2013. As the Giants near next week's draft, Reese's defense will definitely sport a different look.

Osi Umenyiora, Kenny Phillips, Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn are gone.

Former Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are now Giants run-stuffers. Dan Connor is projected to start at middle linebacker and Aaron Ross is back in the secondary.

Despite cap constraints, Reese made a concerted effort to try to fortify a defense that finished 31st overall and 25th against the run last season. That effort will continue next week when Reese will add more defensive players.

When Reese selected running back David Wilson and wide receiver Rueben Randle last year, it was the first time the Giants did not draft a defensive player in the first two rounds since 2004.

It would be a surprise if Reese goes offense again with his first two picks. While the Giants have a need at offensive line and could opt to take a lineman early, Reese can use another pass-rusher.

Umenyiora is gone and Justin Tuck is entering the final year of his deal. And we know how much Reese values his defensive ends and how he has no issue spending a first-round pick on one.

The Giants pick 19th overall and it remains to be seen what the caliber of defensive ends will be when Reese is on the clock.

Ends like BYU's Ezekiel Ansah and LSU's Barkevious Mingo are expected to be long gone. But Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, UCLA's Datone Jones, SMU's Margus Hunt and LSU's Sam Montgomery are among the defensive ends who could go in the first two rounds.

If Reese feels the quality of pass-rushers available at 19 are not that much better than what he might be able to get in the second round, the GM could opt to plug another area at 19.

The Giants are stocked at defensive tackle with Linval Joseph, Jenkins, Patterson, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin and Markus Kuhn. But Reese has never been one to shy away from taking the best player available on his board, regardless of position, and the defensive tackle position is considered to be deep in this draft.

But Reese has other areas of concern on defense. The cornerback play was shaky last season and the future at the position remains a concern with Corey Webster, Ross and Terrell Thomas, who is making a third comeback from an ACL injury, all on one-year deals.

So drafting a cornerback, potentially high, to go with young corners Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley makes sense for the future. That's why Washington’s Desmond Trufant, who could be available at 19, is intriguing. Houston's D.J. Hayden, Boise State's Jamar Taylor, UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay all could be options in the first three rounds. And of course, there's LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, who comes with his share of talent and baggage.

The Giants will move forward this season at linebacker without Boley and Blackburn –- two players who helped the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2011 and were valuable extensions of Perry Fewell on the field in the past.

Fans will continue their annual call for Reese to add a stud linebacker early. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o have been linked often by draft prognosticators to the Giants. But the franchise hasn't spent a first-round pick on a linebacker since selecting Carl Banks in 1984. So if the Giants opt to pass on linebacker in the first round, they could look to take one later in the draft.

The Giants seem set at safety for this season with Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Will Hill, Ryan Mundy and Tyler Sash. But Brown is playing this season on a one-year restricted free-agent tender and it is always possible Reese could draft a safety for the future with Phillips gone and Rolle's contract expiring after 2014.

On special teams, the Giants are moving on without Lawrence Tynes after signing kickers Josh Brown, David Buehler and kicker/punter Jake Rogers in the offseason. Punter Steve Weatherford and long-snapper Zak DeOssie return.

The Giants, though, can always use a dynamic punt returner and they could look to add a receiver or cornerback with return skills in the draft with Domenik Hixon gone. A returner on kickoffs also makes sense since Wilson's workload at running back will increase.

Tell us how you feel about the defense and special teams entering the draft.

Polian breaks down Reese

April, 9, 2013
As is often the case, Jerry Reese didn't make any huge, sexy splashes in free agency.

But the Giants general manager still managed to address the areas of need for his roster all while managing a tight salary cap.

ESPN's Bill Polian recently wrote about his top six NFL talent evaluators and it should be no surprise that Reese is among them. He based his top six in part on "the ability to first assess what you have on the roster -- that helps guide the continued building of rosters through the draft."

Polian on Reese: He goes out and finds players who fit what head coach Tom Coughlin wants, which points to one of his greatest strengths as a GM: Not only is Jerry a terrific judge of talent, he's also an excellent manager in the way he includes his staff and the coaches in the process. Throughout the organization, every scout is working from the same script and knows that their voice will be heard in the player-evaluation process.

Another defining characteristic for Jerry is that he's not afraid to take a chance on a player who he believes will fit their system. Mark Herzlich is a good example. Many teams were scared of his battle with cancer, but he's helped the Giants. And identifying Victor Cruz as a player to develop can't be overlooked -- remember, they kept him through an entire season where Cruz sat on IR. Reese and Coughlin will now unearth last year's first-rounder, RB David Wilson. While the former Virginia Tech back had a rough start following a Week 1 fumble, he should be a strong asset for the Giants going forward after the team had to make financial decisions at the position this offseason.

Reese results: Just to recap this offseason, Reese re-signed the left side of his offensive line (Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe), got Corey Webster and David Diehl to accept pay cuts, got safety Stevie Brown back on a second-round RFA tender, added defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, signed linebacker Dan Connor and tight end Brandon Myers and brought back Aaron Ross. He plugged some starting positions and added depth, some experience, muscle and guys who could shine with more opportunities. And Reese made the majority of his signings for one-year veteran minimums.

He did lose Martellus Bennett to Chicago, who signed the tight end to a four-year, $20 million deal -- more than the Giants were willing to spend. Reese had to release Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley to free up cap space and Osi Umenyiora and Kenny Phillips were allowed to walk in free agency.

But, Giants who have left in recent years haven't always fared well elsewhere. Reese has had a good offseason considering his cap constraints. His offseason isn't complete yet with the draft coming up -- an area he and his staff usually excel at. And his moves in free agency allow him to take the best player available and not necessarily have to draft for need like he might have had to do if he had lost a guy like Beatty or Boothe.

His offseason can get even better if he is able to lock down Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, who is entering his final year, to long-term extensions.

Tell us what you think of Reese and if you agree with Polian's assessment.

Chase heads to Carolina

March, 27, 2013
One of Perry Fewell's most beloved players is joining Dave Gettleman in Carolina.

[+] EnlargeChase Blackburn
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesChase Blackburn is the second linebacker to leave the Giants this offseason.
Chase Blackburn, who had the big interception in Super Bowl XLVI, tweeted he is going to sign with the Panthers. A source confirmed the signing, which will be a two-year deal.

"Thanks for 8 great yrs @Giants," Blackburn tweeted. "But it's time for the #nextChapter @Panthers. Excited for the new opportunity. Where all the Panther fans at"

Blackburn was the starting middle linebacker for the Giants last season, but he had to find a new home after the Giants signed linebacker Dan Connor.

The 6-foot-4 linebacker will join Gettleman, who left his post as director of pro personnel with the Giants to become the Panthers' general manager. Blackburn started a total of 19 games in the past two seasons. He had 64 tackles, four forced fumbles and one interception last season, which was his eighth season with the Giants.

Blackburn is the second starting linebacker who will not return for this season. The Giants released Michael Boley in a cap-cutting move in February.

The Giants currently have Connor, Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Mathias Kiwanuka at linebacker. Kiwanuka, though, likely could move back to defensive end full time this coming season.

Notebook: Murphy is a 'knife'

March, 19, 2013
Jerry Reese believes Louis Murphy will add a new dimension to the Giants' offense.

The Giants made the Murphy free-agent signing official Tuesday and Reese thinks his new wideout will help spread the field for Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

"He will add another dimension to our offense," Reese said on SiriusXM NFL radio. "We have a scout named Jeremiah Davis and he talks about guys being a knife. This guy is a knife. This guy can take the top off your defense. If we have Nicks back healthy and we have Cruz back, this guy gives you a deep threat that we haven't had, like a guy who can run like this guy."

[+] EnlargeLouis Murphy
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesThe Giants hope Louis Murphy can stretch the field.
Murphy was signed to add depth with Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden both free agents.

Mum on Cruz: As expected, Reese didn't have much to say about Cruz's contract situation.

"It is inappropriate for me to talk too much about Victor," Reese said about his restricted free-agent receiver. "One thing I can say is he is a terrific young man and a terrific football player. We are hoping for that situation to work out."

Tight end talk: Reese may have a new starting tight end for the fourth straight year, but he believes tight ends coach Mike Pope won't have to do a lot of teaching and training with Brandon Myers, who signed last weekend to replace Martellus Bennett.

"In the past, we have given Mike some young kids," Reese said. "He had Kevin Boss, he had Jake Ballard, Martellus Bennett hadn't played a lot. This guy [Myers] has played quite a bit, he caught 79 balls in Oakland. So there is not a lot of training. He is quarterback friendly. He catches 80 balls and people don't really know that much about him. We think he will be a great piece to our offense and we think Eli [Manning] will have a relationship with him really quickly."

JPP of TEs: Reese expects Adrien Robinson -- the "JPP of tight ends" -- to "make a jump" this season after spending his rookie season developing his game.

"The guy is 280 pounds, he ran a 4.57 at his pro day," Reese said. "We think he can develop into a terrific blocker. In practice, he flashed some things that were ... like some wild things in practice. We're expecting him to make a jump this season and get in there and give us some contributions as our big blocking tight end, and he can catch the ball really nice. We expect to bring him along and hopefully he will contribute for us."

Free-agency strategy: Reese says people ask him what his strategy is when it comes to free agency.

"I don't think there is a template," he said. "Some years you have more money than other years and you think. 'I can get out and strike quickly.' I remember one year we went out and got Antrel Rolle and then another year we went out and got [Chris] Canty and [Michael] Boley and we went out and got a center [David Baas] one time.

"So you have to strike when you can, but other times you have to sit back and wait and let the market settle down a little bit," he continued. "There are three levels of free agency. ... (You) have the first level; you get the guys out there who [are] going to get the money right away. Then there is a second level and then you can bottom feed on the guys left at the end."

Giants express interest in Maualuga

March, 14, 2013
The Giants are in the market for a veteran linebacker and they are looking at Cincinnati's Rey Maualuga.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that the Giants have expressed "at least some interest" in the Bengals free agent. It remains to be seen how much Maualuga will command on the free agent market. He visited Arizona recently but left without a deal according to USA Today.

Maualuga, 26, had a career-high 122 total tackles and one sack last season. He has 348 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions in four seasons as a starter for the Bengals.

The Giants have also expressed some interest in Detroit free agent linebacker Justin Durant, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. The Giants, who had Minnesota's Jasper Brinkley in for a visit on Wednesday, have a need for some linebackers. Chase Blackburn and Keith Rivers are both free agents and the team released Michael Boley earlier in the offseason.

But they might not have a ton of money to spend on a linebacker -- barring some cap maneuvering -- since they are hoping to re-sign left guard Kevin Boothe and likely have limited cap space.