Having lost free-agent safety Kenny Phillips to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, the New York Giants announced the signing of free-agent safety Ryan Mundy, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mundy is 28 years old and has started a total of five games in the past four years. He didn't play particularly well when given a chance for the Steelers in 2012, and he's stronger in run support than he is in coverage. He's also been a good special teams player.
What does all of that mean about the signing? Well, it's a good enough signing for the Giants, who have to make some low-cost choices at several positions this offseason and decided to let Phillips hit the market because they're worried about his knee and believed they could replace him. Will Mundy start instead of Stevie Brown alongside Antrel Rolle? Maybe, maybe not. That kind of stuff gets sorted out in camp. Brown had a big year in 2012 in terms of creating turnovers, but he's not the same kind of all-around safety Phillips was. While Mundy isn't a finished product, it's unlikely he is either.
I think the upshot of Thursday's development as they pertain to the Giants' safety situation is that a lot more is going to be on Rolle's shoulders. I think Phillips helped make Rolle a better player because he could handle coverage responsibilities while Rolle moved up in the box to play the run, and because the two could flip those roles when the situation called for it. But that dynamic will be missing in 2013 with Phillips gone, and Rolle is going to have to take on a greater leadership role in a secondary whose other safeties are unproven guys like Brown, Mundy and Will Hill.
So it's not as though they just downgraded from Phillips to Mundy. It's more of an evolution of the Giants' secondary, and a decision they felt was necessary to move on from Phillips and replace him with younger players who fill somewhat different roles. I think it can work, in part because the Giants' coaching staff manages change well. But they're going to have to get good cornerback play and real consistency from Rolle. Phillips was kind of the battery for the Giants' defense when he was on the field, and they will have to rework some things with the new cast.