The odds of Kenny Phillips returning to play for the Giants this year was never good to begin with.
But it certainly doesn't make Phillips' departure as a free agent easier to swallow knowing that he left to sign a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. This one won't sit well with Giants fans, who love Phillips. After all, remember the outrage and outcry when Steve Smith signed with the Eagles a few years ago?
That circumstance was different, though. The Giants actually wanted Smith back more than Phillips. And Smith was still trying to come back from serious knee surgery and, as it turns out, he never fully recovered with the Eagles. Letting Smith walk to Philadelphia turned out to be a wise move by Jerry Reese.
A few years later, the Eagles are taking another chance on a Giant who comes with knee issues. Phillips has never quite been the same explosive player since he needed microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2009. He's still athletic and can make plays as a deep safety but he was slowed last season by a right MCL injury that helped keep him out of nine games. The Giants know as good as anybody how Phillips' knees are.
What helps ease the blow of losing Phillips is the fact that Stevie Brown emerged during Phillips' absence last year as a playmaking safety who had eight interceptions.
The Giants are limited by their cap situation and they were not going to spend a significant amount to bring Phillips back with the emergence of Brown. The Giants tendered Brown, a restricted free agent, a second-round RFA tender. That means that the Giants have the right of first refusal if a team offers Brown a contract. The Giants can match and if they opt not to, they will receive a second-round pick in return.
If Phillips had returned to the Giants, Perry Fewell likely would have used a three-safety look with Antrel Rolle, Brown and Phillips. Now with Phillips gone, the team announced they have signed Ryan Mundy as a replacement for Phillips.
Losing Phillips and his athleticism, not to mention his strong chemistry with Rolle and the defense, to Philadelphia stings. Also, even if Phillips isn't quite the same player he used to be before his knee surgery, the Giants more often than not were successful when he was healthy and in the lineup.
The team's 2008 first-round pick will certainly be motivated to show that he still can play like he did before his knee injury. But Giants fans can take some comfort in knowing when players have left in free agency in recent years, they haven't experienced a ton of success away from the Giants.
And the bottom line is that the Giants' financial bottom line always dictates how they go about their business. The Giants' way is to keep their core together and surround their stars with affordable pieces, preferably with upside. And that means, from time to time, a player like Phillips becomes a little too pricey and ultimately expendable.
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