- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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I have a source who has confirmed this New York Daily News report that the New York Giants have called to express interest in free-agent center Brian de la Puente, who was last with the New Orleans Saints. This source believes the Giants have called to express interest in quite a number of interior offensive linemen but was confirming the de la Puente interest because it already had been reported.
At this point, it's impossible to handicap the Giants' chances of signing de la Puente or even whether he's their first choice for center. The "legal tampering period" reports make it tough to know what to believe, because what you hear and read is only a sliver of the amount of activity that's actually going on.
But I have heard some things with regard to the Giants and the offensive line, so I will share them with you here, provided you promise not to fixate on specific names. There are a lot of moving parts, and the point of this analysis is that the likelihood of some moves depends on the way others break in the meantime. So without further ado:
The David Baas situation. The Giants are not averse to keeping Baas, though it would have to be at a lower salary than his currently scheduled $4.75 million for 2014. They have discussed with Baas a pay cut and also a restructure, and either option would reduce his 2014 salary-cap number. They also haven't ruled out releasing him, especially if a better option (de la Puente, for example) presents itself in the meantime. The Giants would save $1.775 million against the cap if they cut Baas, and they would save $5 million if they designated him a June 1 cut, as the Steelers did Monday with linebacker LaMarr Woodley. The issue could be one of leverage: Until the Giants have secured a new center, Baas can wait and hold them up on the salary as long as he's their best option. But that's a risky strategy, since he could find himself out of a job the minute they sign someone else.
UPDATE: The Giants have decided to release Baas before the start of free agency, which likely means they were encouraged by what they learned this weekend in terms of their chances to find a suitable replacement on the free-agent market.
The Chris Snee situation. The veteran right guard has said publicly he'll take a pay cut, and the Giants appreciate this because they don't know the extent to which they'll be able to count on Snee and his surgically repaired hips as a starter. Snee's decision to return for 2014 surprised some people around the Giants, though not necessarily unpleasantly. They are happy to have him if he's healthy enough to play, though his return doesn't preclude them from securing a young free-agent guard or drafting an offensive lineman to take his place, either now or eventually. Snee said recently that he would step aside and help as a tutor if a younger player came in and took his job, and his flexibility on these matters is an asset to the Giants as they make their offseason plans.
The Kevin Boothe situation. I have heard conflicting things on Boothe from different sources. One person told me early in this process that the Giants weren't planning to bring back Boothe. Another has since told me they're amenable to bringing back Boothe but that they would prefer him as a backup at guard and center than as their starter at either position. As is the case with Baas, they appear to be holding off on doing anything with Boothe until they figure out whether they can do better. The difference is that Boothe is a free agent as of 4 p.m. ET Tuesday while Baas is still under contract. I just don't get the sense they would be devastated if someone else wanted to pay Boothe as a starter and they ended up having to replace him.
Free-agent possibilities. In addition to de la Puente, the Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith and the Patriots' Ryan Wendell have both come up in connection with the Giants in terms of centers. Wendell is likely a cheaper fallback option in case they get priced out of the high end of the center market. Guard possibilities continue to include the Chiefs' duo of Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, though Monday's rumblings indicate Atlanta as the front-runner for Asamoah. Recently released Davin Joseph and Uche Nwaneri are possibilities, but the Giants are hoping to sign players under 30 years old as they view the line situation as a long-term rebuild as much as a necessary short-term fix.