New York Giants: Steve Weatherford

Just because the whole thing's not on fire this particular week doesn't mean there aren't fires to put out. This is the life of a head coach, and the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin knows it all too well.

Coughlin didn't like the behavior of Giants safety Antrel Rolle and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie following Rodgers-Cromartie's interception return for a touchdown in Sunday's blowout victory in Tennessee. The play was called back due to a penalty on Damontre Moore, but Rolle also got flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his celebration after Rodgers-Cromartie high-stepped the ball into the end zone.

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"I don't appreciate that," Coughlin said Monday, repeating what he'd said after the game about the incident. "What we talk about is 'team.' We don't talk about individuals. We talk about a team accomplishment, and I didn't like what it represented, and I will speak to the players that were involved in that."

It's not the first time this season that Rolle, a veteran and a team captain, has been involved in such an incident. After the game, he bristled a bit when asked about it.

"We're not talking about anything negative today," Rolle said after the Giants' first victory in two months. "It is what it is. We got caught up in the moment. A teammate made a play and we celebrate."

Time was, this could have been a big issue between Rolle and Coughlin. But the relationship between the two has deepened over time to the point where the discussion is likely to be civil, brief and professional.

Coughlin also was asked about a sideline incident between punter Steve Weatherford and special teams coach Tom Quinn after Weatherford blasted a 61-yard punt into the end zone for a touchback rather than out of bounds inside the 20. Coughlin said he hadn't seen the incident but would speak to both men about it to find out what happened and whether it's something that's a lingering problem going forward.

"I will be glad to talk to both of them about it, but it will be private, and it will remain that way," Coughlin said. "I'm interested in all things running as smoothly as possible. When competitive spirits are high, sometimes things happen and you don't want them to, and then you have to settle it down and continue as best you can professionally."

Weatherford said after the game that he and Quinn made up two minutes later and were upset about the same thing. Quinn and the other Giants coordinators only speak to the media on Thursdays.
The New York Giants get back to work Wednesday afternoon to begin their short week of practice in advance of Sunday's game in Seattle. But running back Rashad Jennings is still not practicing, and it appears likely he will miss his fourth straight game due to a knee sprain.

"He has done some running, straight ahead," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in a Wednesday conference call. "I think he's started to do some cutting, but I don't know if there's a full menu of that coming. He is running, though."

Which is improvement over where he was last week, but until Jennings can reliably cut and move laterally on his left leg, he's not going to be cleared to practice, let alone play. Jennings said last week that the Week 11 home game against the 49ers was a realistic target, so the hope is that he'll only have to miss this one more game.

Guard Geoff Schwartz, who's been on injured reserve since preseason with a toe injury and started practicing last week, is doing more this week, though it's unclear whether he'll be active for the Seattle game. The Giants have until the day after the San Francisco game to activate Schwartz or rule him out for the season.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who missed Monday's game with a calf injury, was doing individual drills Wednesday and Coughlin said he was starting the process. It's possible he could return this week, though again, next week seems more likely.

Left guard Weston Richburg, who left Monday's game with an ankle injury, got good news from Tuesday's tests. Coughlin said Richburg is merely "day to day" with an ankle sprain.

Wide receiver Preston Parker (ankle), defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) and punter Steve Weatherford (ankle/back) were also on the pre-practice injury report. The "back" portion of Weatherford's status is new and worth keeping an eye on as he seemed to struggle physically early in Monday's game.

Giants practice report: No Weatherford

September, 19, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford was not on the field Friday, during the portion of practice open to the media.

Weatherford, who has been playing through a high ankle sprain, sat out Wednesday's practice but worked on a limited basis Thursday. The Giants may just be giving Weatherford some extra rest, heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Linebacker Jon Beason was also absent, but that's because he's having his injured foot evaluated by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina. Beason has not practiced at all this week but has not been ruled out for Sunday's game yet. We should get an update on Beason later in the day.

Rookies Odell Beckham Jr. and Devon Kennard, both dealing with hamstring injuries, were working on the side, and won't play Sunday.

We'll have more information later, after post-practice interviews with coach Tom Coughlin and the players.

Weatherford questionable, plans to play

September, 12, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Who said punters can't be tough?

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Steve Weatherford was back on the practice field Friday, less than a week after tearing ligaments in his left ankle.

Weatherford is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals but, barring a setback, he will play.

"I felt like I punted well enough to play Sunday," Weatherford said. "I felt consistent, I felt stable, I felt strong. But we’re gonna see how it feels tomorrow."

The Giants did work out a few free agent punters after practice Friday, just in case. Place-kicker Josh Brown has punted five times in his NFL career, but not since 2008.

Weatherford is doubly important for the Giants, as he also serves as the team's holder on field goal and point-after attempts. Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib has been preparing to fill in there, but hasn't held for kicks since high school.

After punting five times for 201 yards against the Detroit Lions in Week 1, Weatherford is 22nd in the NFL in gross average (40.2 yards) and 14th in net average (38.2).

"The only thing that I think I might have trouble with, that I’m not counting on happening, is chasing somebody down," Weatherford said. "That may be an issue."

In other injury news, four players have officially been ruled out for Sunday's game: wide receiver Odell Beckham (hamstring), offensive lineman James Brewer (back), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle).

Linebacker Jon Beason (foot), offensive lineman Charles Brown (shoulder), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (neck) are listed as probable.

Beason practiced on a limited basis Friday after sitting out on Thursday. Pierre-Paul did not practice Friday, but was held out for precautionary reasons, according to the Giants.

Practice report: Steve Weatherford working

September, 12, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford was on the field and punting during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday.

Weatherford suffered a high ankle sprain in the team's season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions, and sat out practice the past two days.

He looked pretty good, but place-kicker Josh Brown attempted a few punts, too. Brown is the Giants' backup if Weatherford can't kick Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

Linebacker Jon Beason was on the field, too, after sitting out practice Thursday. He'll likely be limited, but that would still be a good sign.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn were still on the sidelines, working with the trainers.

We'll have a more detailed injury update later, following practice and interviews with coach Tom Coughlin and the players.

Practice report: Jon Beason sits out

September, 11, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Linebacker Jon Beason surprisingly sat out New York Giants practice Thursday due to continued soreness in his foot.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn't know whether Beason would practice Friday. He said he expected Beason to play in Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, but since he didn't expect him to miss practice Thursday, it's obviously possible something could happen to change the prognosis.

Beason was seen before practice trying out different shoes. He's struggled to find the right footwear to help relieve the pain from the foot fracture he suffered in an OTA practice in June. Beason missed all of training camp and all five preseason games while rehabbing the injury but managed to start and play a decent amount of Monday's regular-season opener.

If Beason can't go Sunday, Jameel McClain likely would take over as middle linebacker. But what complicates the situation is that rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is also out with a hamstring injury and sounds unlikely to be ready to play Sunday. He'd be McClain's backup in the middle and likely the starter on the strong side if McClain had to move into the middle.

Of course, since the Cardinals run so many four- and five-wide receiver sets on offense, the Giants are likely to be in nickel and dime defenses much of the afternoon and may not need three linebackers on the field.

Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) missed another practice but seems optimistic that he'll be ready to punt come Sunday.

Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) did his usual running on a side field and did not practice with the team. His debut continues to be on hold.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip) returned to practice after missing it Wednesday. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle) worked on the side.

Josh Brown ready to punt if necessary

September, 10, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Josh Brown hasn't punted in an NFL game since 2004, but the New York Giants' placekicker was practicing it Wednesday just in case he needs to do it Sunday.

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Giants punter Steve Weatherford sprained his ankle in Monday's game. An MRI taken Tuesday showed torn ligaments, but Weatherford was told he didn't need surgery. He spent Giants practice in the weight room (shocker, right?) and said he was still hopeful he could return soon -- possibly as early as Sunday.

"The diagnosis wasn't great, but it could have been a lot worse," Weatherford said. "It could have been a knee. It could have been season-ending. I would like to see a lot more progress between now and Sunday, but I have confidence that our training staff can get me where I need to be."

Weatherford was able to stay in the game and continue punting, but he said the key to determining whether he can play Sunday will not be whether he can "just get the ball off," but rather confidence that he can punt to his standards. However, assuming they don't want to put him on season-ending injured reserve, the Giants aren't likely to use a second roster spot on a punter they bring in off the street. So if Weatherford has to miss a week, Brown is the likely replacement option.

"It's not part of my normal serious drills, but it's not something that's going to be overwhelming," Brown said. "I have no issues catching the snap and getting it off in time."

Weatherford is also the holder on field goals -- a chore he could certainly handle with a sprained ankle but which would fall to backup quarterback Ryan Nassib if Weatherford were inactive Sunday. Brown said Nassib didn't hold in college and has been getting a crash course in it the past few weeks. "He's doing real well," Brown said.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul came out of Monday night's game briefly with a neck/shoulder injury, but he returned and finished the game. The Giants had some concern that the problem might continue into this week, but so far it has not. Pierre-Paul practiced with the team in full Wednesday and said afterwards that he had no limitations.

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"I feel good," Pierre-Paul said. "I'll be out there. Full go."

Not participating in practice were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), offensive lineman James Brewer (back), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle), punter Steve Weatherford (ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip).

The Weatherford, Kennard and Jenkins injuries all happened in Monday's game. Jenkins said he expects to play Sunday but couldn't be sure he'd practice Thursday. If he can't go Sunday, that would leave the Giants very thin at defensive tackle assuming Kuhn is still out.

Kennard said he pulled his right hamstring on the first defensive snap of the game (and of his NFL career) when he caught his cleat on the turf. He has no idea when they'll let him practice.

Weatherford got good news on his sprained ankle. He's got some torn ligaments but won't need surgery, and he's not ruling out the chance he can be on the field Sunday.

Beckham fielded some punts at the beginning of practice, which he didn't do last week, but he didn't run with them and continued to work off to the side while the team practiced.

Big Blue Morning: Big Blue Bummer

September, 9, 2014
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DETROIT -- Cleaning up a few items from Monday night's ugly New York Giants opener...
  • Manning
    Eli Manning called both of his interceptions "bad decisions" and took responsibility for both. The second certainly was a bad decision, as Manning was forced out to his left by pressure and tried forcing a throw to Victor Cruz too far into the middle of the field. The first one looked as though Manning and tight end Larry Donnell read the play differently, but Manning owned that one as well. "I thought I saw a pocket, but it was a wrong decision by me," he said. Manning threw a league-leading 27 interceptions last year, and the two in this year's opener put him on pace to throw 32. The new offense was supposed to reduce the number of mistakes and turnovers.
  • Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's first-half injury, which knocked him out for a series but not the whole game, was not a neck injury but rather a shoulder injury, according to people I spoke with after the game. Pierre-Paul was not checked for a concussion, as is often protocol with neck injuries, because the doctors reviewing the play on the sideline determined that the hit was to his left shoulder. After the game, Pierre-Paul said he was fine and told Giants medical personnel that the injury didn't bother him at all in the second half. Sounds like a dodged bullet there.
  • Punter Steve Weatherford, however, has a sprained left ankle, which is the ankle on his plant foot, and he's got an MRI scheduled Monday. A sprained ankle shouldn't sideline Weatherford for the season or anything like that, but it's possible the Giants may have to bring in someone to punt for a game or two while he heals. Weatherford was in a walking boot when he left the stadium Monday night.
  • Tom Coughlin named the pass protection, along with the ineffective run game, as his top concerns. Pressed on the issue of pass protection as it pertains to the long-term health of his quarterback, Coughlin said, "This is our team, and whoever we get back healthy enough to play will play, but this is what we have." It's clear they were counting on Geoff Schwartz as a key piece at left guard, and they don't have him until Week 9 due to a toe injury. But left tackle Will Beatty absolutely has to play better.
  • The mood in the locker room was bad. No one could come up with anything positive to say. Linebacker and team captain Jon Beason said, "All of the problems are self-inflicted, which is a good thing, because that means we can correct them." But even he stressed that there are a lot of new players on this team and there's no way to know how people you just met will react to their first real adversity. The way the Giants come out in Sunday's home opener will be telling, I think.
DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 35-14 loss to the Lions:
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin doesn't sugarcoat. "No excuses," he said. "We played very poorly. We don't have a lot to be proud of here. It was a nightmare performance." Coughlin cited the pass protection and the lack of productivity by the run game as his top two concerns and told his team it was in for a tough, short week of preparation for Sunday's game against the Cardinals.
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    Weatherford
  • Punter Steve Weatherford had a walking boot on his left foot and said he would have an MRI on his injured ankle Tuesday. Weatherford was hit on a punt early in the game and stayed in to continue punting, but he said he "had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to punt when I couldn't accelerate through the ball." Obviously, the Giants will have to bring in someone else if Weatherford's injury is serious.
  • The Giants' defensive game plan called for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to shadow Lions top wideout Calvin Johnson all game. Johnson had seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. "He got behind the defense and made a play," Rodgers-Cromartie said of the 67-yard play that began the night's scoring. "I can't really speak on that." My sense was that Rodgers-Cromartie thought he had help on the play and didn't want to burn a teammate by saying it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The key thing to know is that the punt-protector role is a new one for second-year New York Giants safety Cooper Taylor. Though, if you watched Sunday night's preseason game, you may have guessed that already.

Taylor was supposed to block the Buffalo Bills' Marcus Easley on a second-quarter Giants punt, but he simply did not. Easley breezed past him without any hesitation and blocked Steve Weatherford's kick.

"Yeah, it's fundamental," Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said Wednesday. "You have to put your hat on the guy. You have to redirect him. He did not do that."

The Giants used Taylor as a "gunner" on special teams last year, sending him downfield on the outside to try to stop return men. But they're trying him this year in that inside role, lined up as a sort of tight end on the punt team to help protect the kick from being blocked.

"With his height/weight/speed combination, that should be a very natural position for him," Quinn said. "We're still working with him and trying to get him better. But that's something he has to work on."

Taylor was the Giants' fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft, and he's got a good chance to make this year's team as a backup safety. But he'd be no better than the No. 4 safety on the depth chart at this point, and anyone who fits that description also has to be able to contribute on special teams. This is something Taylor knows and takes quite seriously. However disgusted you may have been as a fan with his whiff Sunday night, he had you beat.

"It was one of the hardest days of my life," said Taylor, who redeemed himself a bit with an interception six plays later and played an overall strong game on defense. "My teammates all told me to keep my head up, and I was able to come back and get that interception. But it was definitely a trying game, definitely a learning experience for me."

Taylor's breakdown prompted coach Tom Coughlin to make punt protection a point of emphasis in Tuesday night's practice, and the head coach oversaw those drills directly. Coughlin also stayed after practice to watch Taylor work one-on-one with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka on technique. That session continued after Coughlin left, with Kiwanuka spending a great deal of time both lining up against Taylor and speaking to him about proper form.

"All of our guys are real good with helping the young guys," Coughlin said. "They do an excellent job of that."

So Taylor has that going for him as he works to overcome the mistake that stood out above all of his positive play Sunday night. He also has time -- still four and a half weeks until the final roster cuts and nearly five weeks until the first game that counts.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Much of the buzz around New York Giants camp has been about the impending enshrinement of Michael Strahan in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend. But while he has plenty of love and respect for that great former Giant, punter Steve Weatherford is also enjoying the fact that former Raiders punter Ray Guy is going into the Hall of Fame this weekend. Guy will be the first punter ever enshrined.

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"Being a punter, it may sound silly for me to say it, but I think it's about time," Weatherford said before Giants practice Thursday. "He's the best player at his position ever. He deserves it."

Weatherford was a soccer player who took up punting at age 15, and he said Guy was the name everyone knew when it came to punting. So it's not just that a punter is going into the Hall of Fame; it's that it's this particular one.

"He's the guy that everybody thinks of," Weatherford said. "He was the person that made people start to care about that position and think it was more than just a body on the team. Really revolutionized the position, and you can't say enough good things about not only what he was able to do for his franchise, and all the Pro Bowls and records, but really for the position itself."

Weatherford enjoys being a punter at a time when the fans and the game place unprecedented value on the position. He said he encounters Giants fans who still commend him for the brilliant game he had against the 49ers in the NFC championship game three seasons ago and the performance he delivered in the Super Bowl against the Patriots two weeks later. He believes Giants fans have special reason to appreciate the importance of his position.

"Just Jeff Feagles," Weatherford said, invoking the name of one of his close predecessors here. "He wasn't out there hitting 65-yard punts, but he was so good at keeping the ball away from the returner and just a really, rock-solid, steady punter. And this is a really difficult place to punt -- very windy, can get nasty, can get cold. And he just did a great job for an incredibly long time.

"I think he's one of the greats, and they don't really appreciate him until we brought a rookie in here and it really went to show you how difficult a place this is to play. Not only the conditions, but this place, if you don't play well, the fans will eat you up."

The reference there is of course to poor Matt Dodge, the rookie famous for kicking the ball to DeSean Jackson at the tail end of the Eagles' miracle comeback over the Giants in December 2010. Dodge lost his job to Weatherford in training camp the following season, and after the Super Bowl victory, the Giants rewarded Weatherford with a five-year, $12.5 million contract, of which about $4 million was guaranteed.

"You've got punters in the NFL now that are making $4 million a year and you've got some running backs on your team that are making less than $1 million," Weatherford said. "That just goes to show you, when you do find a really good punter, you've got to hang onto him. Because you never appreciate the punter until you don't have one that you can trust and depend on."

It's a good time to be a punter in the NFL, and for that reason Weatherford and his brethren will salute Ray Guy when he gets that gold jacket.
All this week, we took a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' offense as it heads into training camp. The week of July 14, we'll do the same with the defense. Today, though, as a Saturday special, we'll take a look at the way the Giants' special teams stack up with a couple of weeks still left before camp.

Kickers: Josh Brown, Brandon McManus

Punter: Steve Weatherford

Long snapper: Zak DeOssie

Kick returners: Quintin Demps, Trindon Holliday, Odell Beckham Jr.

Punt returners: Holliday, Beckham, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan

Gunners: Zack Bowman, Bennett Jackson, Charles James et al.

Special teams coach Tom Quinn said in June that he saw the placekicker position as a competition between Brown, who was the Giants' kicker last year, and McManus, a rookie out of Temple. That's a battle to watch in camp.

Demps was signed for kickoff returns, but the suspension and release of Will Hill has left the Giants thin at safety, and Demps likely will have to play more there than they originally planned. That could open the door for Holliday or rookie Beckham to get more kick-return chances, assuming they're not afraid to use this year's first-round pick there and expose him to injury that could limit him on offense. David Wilson, who was brilliant as a kick returner in his 2012 rookie season, is unlikely to find himself back in the mix even if he's cleared for contact following neck surgery. Michael Cox, if he makes the team at running back, could factor here as well.

Holliday should be the primary punt returner, though Beckham can likely do the job there too. Randle and Jernigan are holdovers from last year's punt-return unit, which was one of the worst in the league.

Bowman gets mentioned here because his ability to get down the field on special teams is a primary reason the Giants signed him. James and Jackson could use strong performances on the coverage teams in camp as a means of making the team in a crowded field of cornerbacks.

Weatherford's and DeOssie's spots are as secure as Eli Manning's is.
By now you've probably heard about New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford taking Bayonne's Lauren Delbert to her prom last week. It has not exactly been a well-guarded secret. You can read about it here in The Star-Ledger, or listen about it here on ESPN Radio.

Things got even more impressive a night later when Weatherford crashed another New Jersey prom as part of his efforts to help local victims of Hurricane Sandy afford to attend their proms.

We talk about this from time to time, and Weatherford isn't the only player about whom we could say something like this, but it's nice when pro athletes recognize the impact they can have on the lives of their fans. Weatherford is clearly a guy who appreciates the position to which his fame and achievements have brought him and is determined to maximize it. He does TV, he appears on the cover of fitness magazines, he shows up at prom and elevates a memorable night for high school kids into something even cooler.

It's one thing to enjoy your fame. It's another, extra, important thing to recognize the ability it provides you to put smiles on the faces of other people. Good for Weatherford for finding and taking those opportunities.

Franchise/transition tags: Giants

February, 17, 2014
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Monday is the first day NFL teams can designate franchise or transition tags in an effort to keep players they deem most valuable off the market. (They have until March 3 to decide whether to do it.) Teams don't have to use the designations, and most don't. But if they do, they have the choice to use the exclusive franchise tender, the non-exclusive franchise tender or the transition player designation, which no one uses anymore. A team can pick only one player, at most, on whom to use one of these designations per year. A brief explanation of the differences between the three can be found here.

What we want to figure out here, however, is the likelihood that the New York Giants will use one of these designations this year. We'll ignore the transition tag, because it's outdated and no longer used, and instead focus on the franchise tag. Historically, the Giants have used the franchise player designation as a means of holding a player in place because they believed they were making good progress with that player on a long-term deal and didn't want him to hit the market. Example: Two years ago, nearing completion on a new deal with punter Steve Weatherford, they used the franchise tag on him at the deadline but shortly after announced a long-term deal that superseded it.

They could do that this year if they find themselves in a good position in negotiations with one of their many free agents. Linebacker Jon Beason is a player they'd like to bring back and with whom they've discussed a long-term deal. The franchise-tag salary for linebackers is likely to be more than $10 million, though, so they'd have to feel confident about their chances of signing Beason long-term (they'd have until July 15 to do so) if they were to risk paying him that much on a one-year deal.

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph is another pending free agent who's a candidate for the franchise tag, which for his position should be around $9 million. If they're doing a long-term deal with Joseph before the market opens, it likely would be for less than that, but they could conceivably risk carrying him at that number. I do not believe they will use the franchise tag on wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, for whom the tag could be worth more than $11 million.

It's possible that the strongest Giants candidate for the tag could be kicker Josh Brown, since using the tag for kickers and punters is generally a palatable $3 million or so. The Giants like Brown and could try to sign him to a multi-year deal, using the tag in the meantime as they did with Weatherford.

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