New York Giants: o'brien schofield

Remember last March, when free agency started and the New York Giants agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract with a Seahawks pass-rusher named O'Brien Schofield, only to back out once he failed the physical? Remember that? No? Well, it happened, and afterwards Schofield returned to Seattle on a one-year, $730,000 deal. His reward is that he gets to play in the Super Bowl again Sunday.

Newsday's Tom Rock caught up with Schofield recently (at the NFC Championship Game, I think), and obviously the dude has no regrets. I mean, money's cool and all, but the Giants went 6-10:

"They said I was starting to get arthritis in my knee," Schofield said Sunday. "But honestly, who's not playing with something?"

He wound up re-signing with the Seahawks -- and now he and his teammates are going back to the big game. He played in the defensive-line rotation against the Packers, and finished with two assists and a quarterback hit. He lined up all along the defensive front, from end to nose tackle. ...

He'll again be a free agent in a few weeks, and he hopes his efforts have opened the eyes of some general managers -- and maybe some team physicians -- to what he can do.

Until then, he gets to finish the ride with the Seahawks.

"To possibly have the first two Super Bowls in franchise history and have them back-to-back and be a part of both of them? What more could you ask for?" he said. "That's a storybook ending for anybody."

I bring this up because the short-lived Schofield signing was an example of something the Giants might do again this offseason. Though they will be focused on re-signing free-agent defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, they are always looking to beef up the pass rush. They added Robert Ayers late last year as Justin Tuck's replacement, and with Mathias Kiwanuka likely on his way out the door this offseason (and Pierre-Paul not a sure thing to return), they will be looking for one or two more bodies, at least, for that pass rush.

The free-agent pass-rusher market this year is loaded with familiar names, and you are going to want to know about guys like Buffalo's Jerry Hughes, Washington's Brian Orakpo, Philadelphia's Brandon Graham, etc... But the Giants had a specific reason for liking Schofield as a linebacker who could help their pass rush by lining up in different spots all around the formation. And even if they don't go back to that particular well, expect to hear a name or two out of the blue and off the beaten path as the Giants scour the market for pass-rushers. After all, as they have often said, you can't have too many.
The second day of free agency offered a little bit of everything for the New York Giants. They reached agreement on a new deal with middle linebacker Jon Beason, which was a good thing. They lost out on wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones, who re-signed with the Ravens. Their Tuesday deal with pass-rusher O'Brien Schofield fell apart when questions surfaced about his knee during his physical. And they signed a young center who hasn't played since 2012 but could well be in line to start for them in 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assorted tidbits: Cornerback Terrell Thomas was also scheduled to visit the Raiders. Thomas has not received any contract offer from the Giants, who seem content to let him walk. ... Linebacker Keith Rivers signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. ... The Giants re-signed Curtis Painter, who was Eli Manning's backup quarterback in 2013. Training camp will tell whether Ryan Nassib is ready to beat him out or will have to spend another year as the No. 3 quarterback. ... In answer to many of your Twitter questions, I'm hearing nothing about the Giants and tight ends. No tight ends have signed yet, though.
As soon as free agency opened Tuesday, we reported that the New York Giants had agreed to terms on a two-year, $8 million deal with linebacker/pass-rusher O'Brien Schofield. But as NFL Network first reported Wednesday, the Giants saw something they didn't like with regard to Schofield's knee when they gave him a physical. And now, there's a chance Schofield won't be a Giant after all.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the deal is not completely dead, but if it's ultimately completed, it's unlikely to be for as much money as originally expected. The Giants still want Schofield, but on a much smaller deal, so they're letting him look around to see what else is out there.

Schofield tore an ACL during Senior Bowl practice in 2010, the year he was drafted.

Could Tuck and Beason head west?

March, 12, 2014
Our man Adam Schefter reported Tuesday night that defensive end Justin Tuck is visiting the Raiders. The Denver Post reports the Broncos are interested in middle linebacker Jon Beason. Tuck and Beason are key defensive players the New York Giants began the offseason hoping to re-sign. Could they really both sign elsewhere?

Of course they could.

The Giants have the cap room to keep both players if they want to. Some Giants fans on Twitter seem upset by the two-year, $8 million price tag for O'Brien Schofield, but that contract isn't going to be the reason Beason and/or Tuck aren't back. The Giants had about $26 million in cap room when free agency started. They can sign basically anyone they want to sign.

However, the Giants take a very consistent approach when it comes to their own free agents. They settle on a specific value, establishing in their own minds what the player is worth. They tell the player they'll welcome him back at that number, and if the player doesn't like it he's free to go to Oakland or Denver or anywhere else and see whether he can do better. If he can't, they'll still welcome him back -- provided they haven't replaced him in the meantime. There's always wiggle room, but not much. Just because they have cap room doesn't mean the Giants want to spend more on Beason or Tuck than they believe they're worth.

The Giants believed, when the offseason began, they could sign Beason for something in the $3 million or $4 million per year range. Tuck's number is likely a bit higher, but not too much. The fact both are looking elsewhere indicates they think the Giants should be offering more. And in the cases of Denver and Oakland, they could find satisfaction.

The Broncos have already signed T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib and are trying to sign DeMarcus Ware today in a clear effort to win one more game next year than they did this past year. If they decide Beason is the guy to bring that star-studded defense all together in the middle, outidding the Giants won't be an issue for them.

The Raiders began the new league year with more cap room than any team and haven't spent much of it yet. They also let their own free-agent pass-rusher, Lamarr Houston, leave to sign with the Bears. So they have a hole. They could be a team that drastically overpays for Tuck, and that could send him packing. The Giants still have Mathias Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore to go with Jason Pierre-Paul. They love Tuck and always will, but he's turning 31 in a couple of weeks and the free agents they're signing are all in that 27-28-29 range.

This is one reason the Schofield signing is interesting. He's a linebacker (who could maybe help replace Beason), but the word I'm getting is the Giants also view him as a pass-rusher (who could maybe help replace Tuck). They signed him because they think he's a versatile guy who can help in a variety of ways depending on what their needs turn out to be. The issue may be that he's not that great a player, but the Giants saw something they liked and you guys are always telling me I should trust Jerry Reese more than I usually do.

Stay tuned on all of this, because no one knows what's going to happen. Expect the Giants to stay active, but also to stay consistent in their approach. They want Tuck and Beason back, but if one or both of them get crazy money elsewhere, they're not going to go overboard to make it happen.

Big Blue Morning: Assessing Day 1

March, 12, 2014
In general, I'm not a fan of throwing big money at the top-line, most established free agents out there. Unless you're looking at franchise quarterbacks, NFL careers are too short and players' primes are too fleeting. If you're spending big bucks on a guy who's already done a lot, odds are you'll end up paying for some bad years -- or trying to find a way out of a bad contract.

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

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

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

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

Some other notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other needs still to be addressed include wide receiver, tight end, middle linebacker (could be Beason), defensive line (Tuck or his replacement and a low-priced free-agent defensive tackle) and kick returner (could be Jacoby Jones, who's in for a visit Wednesday). The Giants entered the offseason in need of a full-on roster rebuild, and they've only been at it one day. Expect them to continue to be busy.
Considering how little attention the New York Giants have paid to the linebacker position in recent years, it's a little surprising to see them sign O'Brien Schofield for two years and $8 million. Schofield was an outside linebacker in the Seahawks' 4-3 defensive front last year. And while, yes, he did play in the Super Bowl, a lot of the Seahawks' backups played in the Super Bowl because they were running away with the game by halftime.

But a closer look indicates that the Giants may view this as a more creative signing. Schofield has been known to line up from time to time as a pass-rusher, and when he was coming out of college he was thought of as a player who could help in that regard. He finished second in the Big Ten with 12 sacks for Wisconsin in 2009. But he tore an ACL during Senior Bowl practice in 2010 and fell to the fourth round, where the Arizona Cardinals picked him.

So Schofield projects, for the Giants, as a guy who can contribute as an outside linebacker and possibly as a situational pass-rusher, which is something for which they're always looking. Especially if Justin Tuck doesn't re-sign, Jason Pierre-Paul continues to struggle with injuries and Damontre Moore doesn't develop, the Giants will be thin at pass-rusher, and it's possible Schofield could factor into the rotation. That would explain the price tag, which seems high for a weakside linebacker.

I do not think the Schofield signing precludes the Giants from re-signing middle linebacker Jon Beason, who is checking out the market to see what he's worth and remains in contact with the Giants as he talks to other teams.