NFL Nation: David Baas

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The fast and furious action in the second and third rounds of the NFL draft Friday night didn't leave us much time to delve into the New York Giants' second-round pick, but Weston Richburg is worth some Saturday morning delving. So let's delve, shall we?

Richburg was the 43rd pick in this year's draft, and there is little doubt he'll be expected to compete for (and likely win) the starting center's job this spring and summer. His top competition right now is free-agent addition J.D. Walton, who hasn't played since September of 2012 due to an ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeWeston Richburg
AP Photo/G.M. Andrews"He can pull, he can block the zone schemes and he makes all the calls," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of second-round pick Weston Richburg.
"He can pull, he can block the zone schemes and he makes all the calls," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "The center position here for us is one of responsibility in terms of dictating to the rest of the offensive line exactly how the scheme is going to go. This guy will fit right in in terms of that."

Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese both said the center's responsibility for handling line and protection calls will increase under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross said Richburg scored an impressive 31 on the Wonderlic test and impressed the Giants in his combine interview with his intelligence. The idea that they're excited about Richburg as a potential starter says less about Walton, who himself was a not-too-shabby 80th overall pick in the 2010 draft and would have projected as the Giants' starting center if they hadn't addressed the position in the draft, than it does about Richburg himself.

The decision-makers raved about Richburg's athleticism, which apparently also will be an asset in the new McAdoo offense, and his durability. Coughlin couldn't wait to tell the story of how Richburg broke his right hand in 2012 and played the final game snapping with his left hand while his right was in a club cast.

"Yeah, that's something I take a lot of pride in," a proud Richburg said when asked about that story. "You don't see a lot of guys who can do that."

The Giants' execs pointed out that Richburg was a team captain who didn't miss any games in college. Richburg said it was important to him to be the first center taken in the draft (as he was). And in general, there's nothing not to like about the guy at this point. Even if the Giants really were comfortable with the idea of Walton as their starting center, they recognized that they needed to re-stock with top talent on the offensive line. Richburg helps them do that, and at a position where there may be an opportunity to start right away.

"Last year, we had a couple of injuries early on the offensive line and it was pretty devastating," Reese said, accurately. "We had to bring in some guys that struggled some at those positions, so we're trying to make sure we have enough depth at every position. This guy will help provide that for us."

The Giants have overhauled the interior of their offensive line, which was extinction-level bad in 2013. Left guard Kevin Boothe signed with the Raiders, right guard David Diehl retired and they released center David Baas. They signed free agent Geoff Schwartz to start at left guard, Walton for center and John Jerry for a reserve role, and they're hoping Chris Snee can make a healthy return from hip surgery at right guard. Richburg is the latest move in their effort to make sure they don't get caught short with underprepared guys at those spots if injuries happen again.
video The pick: Weston Richburg, center, Colorado State

My take: It's good that they took an offensive lineman. It would have been irresponsible and negligent for them not to do so. They should have taken one in the first round and chose not to, and with Richburg, they get a center with whom they spent a great deal of time prior to the draft and whom they likely think can start for them early in his career, possibly right away.

As we discussed Thursday, the Giants lock in on a player they like and they take him. That's how they do business. And this is a pick that fills a short-term and long-term need. He's a good player who can help them. However, was he the best offensive lineman available here? Could they have moved down and still drafted him? Could they have waited until the third round? You'd like to think so, and if tackles Morgan Moses and Cyrus Kouandjio were better players, I'd have advocated taking them even though they play tackle, which is not as obvious an immediate need. The point is to improve the overall talent level on the line with elite players or close-to-elite players, and they can sort them out later. They might have reached a bit here, but as was the case Thursday with Odell Beckham Jr., they found a player they liked and grabbed him.

Path to playing time: The Giants released center David Baas earlier in the offseason and signed former Broncos center J.D. Walton, who was projected as the starting center prior to this pick. I'd have to think the Giants would give Richburg a chance to win the starting job in camp, though they did go into this draft thinking they could go with Walton if they didn't find anything better, so they could also give him time. The Giants generally don't like to throw rookies right into starting roles, but last year's first-round pick, Justin Pugh, started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie and performed well.

What's next: The Giants hold the 10th pick in the third round (No. 74 overall) later tonight and could still find good value on the offensive or defensive lines, where they continue to need to stockpile talent. I don't expect them to hunt for a tight end or a running back tonight. Safety is a possibility if they find one they like at the spot. They have four picks tomorrow -- a fourth-rounder, two fifth-rounders and a sixth-rounder.
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:

Tuck
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.

Schwartz
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.
There are multiple reports indicating the Baltimore Ravens are close to re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe, and a deal could be complete before the start of free agency at 4 p.m.

This likely will be the first of a handful of moves in free agency as the Ravens look to improve the NFL's 29th-ranked offense. Let's take a look at who else could be on the team's radar:

WIDE RECEIVER

Smith
Steve Smith, Carolina: The Panthers are reportedly trying to trade Smith, and they could ultimately release him. Smith is the type of clutch, go-to receiver the Ravens need. He also brings an intensity and work ethic that can rub off on young receivers. The biggest problem is Smith turns 35 in May and he's coming off his second-least productive season over the past nine years. He had 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns.

Julian Edelman, New England: He fits what the Ravens want: a receiver who can make the tough catches underneath and can break tackles to convert third downs. Edelman's skill set would complement Torrey Smith's deep speed and give the Ravens two receivers hitting their prime. What is tough is gauging whether Edelman can come close to matching his 2013 breakthrough season (105 catches for 1,056 yards) without Tom Brady throwing him the ball.

Golden Tate, Seattle: Tate would be at the top of my list for the Ravens. At 25, he's just reaching the prime of his career. His receiving stats aren't overly impressive because he has played in a run-heavy offense, but the key is his numbers have improved each season. Tate's biggest selling point: He led the league in yards after catch per reception (7.75), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Plus, he's not afraid to block, and he's known for being a high-character player in the locker room.

TIGHT END

Pettigrew
Pettigrew
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit: Even though the Ravens signed Dennis Pitta, the Ravens are expected to line up in two tight ends a lot under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Pettigrew, who is more of a complete tight end than Pitta, would be an excellent fit for the Ravens. General manager Ozzie Newsome liked Pettigrew in the 2009 draft, but the Lions selected him six picks ahead of the Ravens. Pettigrew, 29, never delivered the pass-catching numbers expected of a first-round pick. Last season's production (41 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns) was his lowest since his rookie season. The Ravens need him as much for his blocking as pass-catching skills. He would be an upgrade over Ed Dickson, who is a free agent.

Owen Daniels, Houston: Daniels, who was released by the Texans on Tuesday, is on the list because of his obvious connection with Kubiak, the former head coach of the Texans. He runs great routes, can catch most passes thrown his way and has proved to be a functional blocker. Durability is the biggest concern. He has been limited to 11 games or fewer in three of the past five seasons. Last season, Daniels played only five games because of a fractured fibula.

Garrett Graham, Houston: Just like Daniels, Graham is here because of his history with Kubiak. He proved he could be effective in the passing game (49 catches and five touchdowns last season) and is an above-average blocker. With his age (27) and upside, some teams (like the Buccaneers) will view him as a potential No. 1 tight end. He wouldn't have that high-profile role with the Ravens.

CENTER

Mack
Alex Mack, Cleveland: There are reports the Ravens could turn their attention to Mack if they can't get a deal done with Monroe. What is going to be difficult is prying the Pro Bowl center away from the Browns, who put the transition tag on him. That means they can match any offer. If the Ravens can somehow pull this off, this would be a major step toward improving the offensive line. I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I believe adding Mack would be a better move than keeping Monroe.

David Baas, New York Giants: Baas, who was cut by the Giants on Monday, would serve as a stopgap until Gino Gradkowski can get stronger. Baas is 32 and has an injury history, which is why he can be had for a one- or two-year deal. He has been the Giants' starting center since signing as a free agent in 2011, but has struggled to stay healthy. His 2013 season ended early as a result of a neck injury. The Giants could target Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who could follow offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo from Green Bay to New York.

Brian De La Puente, New Orleans: He's a three-year starter for the Saints who will draw interest because of a weak free-agent market for centers. Before joining the Saints, he was a journeyman who played on six teams in three seasons. At 28, De La Puente could be coming into his own at the right time. He's not considered a power player inside.

Big Blue Morning: Happy New Year

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
9:30
AM ET
Yeah, that's right. Free agency begins today at 4 pm ET along with the start of the new NFL league year. That means the New York Giants, who by my count need at least 10 new starters and a whole bunch of depth, are going to get busy figuring out what their 2014 roster is going to look like.

The industry scuttlebutt this morning is the Giants will sign a center quickly, as they did three years ago with David Baas when the market opened. They have decided to release Baas, as you learned Monday, and with nothing behind him on the current roster, center becomes a priority item. The Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith makes a lot of sense and could be the guy they sign right away, within minutes or hours of the opening of the market. Dietrich-Smith turns 28 in July, and new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo knows him from their work together in Green Bay. The Giants also have spoken with the agents for Saints free-agent center Brian de la Puente and others.

The Giants also are known to be looking at cornerbacks. They are close to an agreement with Trumaine McBride, who became a starter for them last year after Corey Webster and Aaron Ross got hurt. But they see McBride as a valuable reserve or swing corner who can play inside or outside. They'd prefer not to have to rely on him as a starter on the outside if they can help it. Now, obviously, the biggest name on the cornerback market all of a sudden is Darrelle Revis, who is apparently about to get cut by the Buccaneers. If the Giants want to play in the deep end of the cornerback pool, they would have to at least check on Revis. My guess is that he'll cost more than they want to pay, but they'd be crazy not to look into it. The Giants have about $25 million in salary cap space right now, and while they have a lot of needs, that's enough to enable them to afford anyone.

The Giants also continue to work on a new deal for linebacker Jon Beason, though it seems as if he's interested in finding out what else is out there for him. Remember, because Beason is acting as his own agent, he hasn't yet been able to have the conversations with teams that other agents have had about their players for the past three days. So, assuming everyone's been following the rules, Beason doesn't yet know what his market is. Once he finds out, he could decide the Giants' offer is the best he'll do. But he owes it to himself to find out.

Other than McBride, it seems the only Giants free agents who'll be locked up by 4 pm ET are kicker Josh Brown and possibly running back Peyton Hillis. That means Beason, Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, Terrell Thomas, Stevie Brown, Hakeem Nicks and all the rest should be on the market when it opens. Of that list, I'd guess Beason and Brown are the most likely to be back, and I wouldn't rule out Tuck just yet. The others are looking for bigger paydays than the Giants are willing to offer right now.

Stay tuned throughout the day, of course. We'll have plenty of coverage, including a live chat with all of our NFL reporters that runs from 2 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET. I'll be popping in and out of there as news warrants, but the chat should be active all day with news from around the league. Stop by at this link right here. Catch up with you later.

Giants offensive line tidbits

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
2:16
PM ET
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:

Baas
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.

Snee
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.

Boothe
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.

Free-agency primer: Giants

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
AM ET
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: DT Linval Joseph, LB Jon Beason, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, RB Andre Brown, TE Brandon Myers, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Trumaine McBride

Where they stand: The Giants have 23 unrestricted free agents and a crying need to rebuild an offense that bottomed out around quarterback Eli Manning in 2013. They need to find a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end and at least two starting offensive linemen. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is likely to have some input in the kinds of players they pursue in free agency because he's installing a relatively new offense in New York for the first time in 10 years. They will also need to plug holes on defense if they don't re-sign Beason, Tuck or Joseph. And they could use an upgrade over McBride at cornerback.

What to expect: The Giants are trying to lock up Beason in advance of free agency but haven't yet. Once the market opens Tuesday, expect them to be aggressive in their pursuit of interior offensive linemen. If they find an upgrade at center, they can gain significant cap room by designating David Baas a June 1 cut. But they will go after at least one free-agent guard (Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asamoah, guys like that) and possibly more. Improving the protection of Manning is a primary goal for the Giants this offseason. Beefing up the interior of the line would also help them re-establish the run game. As they pursue wide receivers, keep an eye on players like Dexter McCluster and Golden Tate, who could help the Giants' weak return units.
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports that the New York Giants will begin free agency next month by pursuing some of the top young guards on the market -- guys in their mid-20s to late-20s who rank among the best available at the position this offseason. He lists Kansas City's Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, the Chargers' Chad Rinehart, Denver's Zane Beadles and the Browns' Shawn Lauvao as possibilities. They're all between 25 and 28 years old, which is a smart age range at which to target free agents. In that age range, you can find players who have established themselves as capable, productive performers but who still have prime years left and are hungry to keep proving themselves.

So with David Diehl retiring, Chris Snee trying to work his way back from another hip surgery and Kevin Boothe also a free agent, this is a sensible way for the Giants to go, for sure. The Giants are invested in Will Beatty at left tackle for the long term, and they like 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh at right tackle for now, so they will focus on the interior of the offensive line, which was their greatest weakness last season.

What confuses me a bit is the David Baas situation, as I expected the Giants would move on from Baas and find a new center this offseason. This report here makes it sound as though they expect to keep Baas, as long as he comes back from his neck injury OK. But I think that'd be a bit of a mistake. The Giants have always seemed to like Baas more than the empirical evidence indicates they should, starting with when they signed him, so it's possible they could be holding on because they see something we don't. And if they are to cut him, he makes more sense as a June 1 cut, where he'd save them $5 million in 2014 cap space as opposed to the $1.8 million he'd save them if they cut him now. So maybe that decision comes later, with the potential re-signing of Boothe (who can play center) as a hedge in case they don't find Baas' replacement in the draft.

Either way, the Giants need to keep adding quality pieces to an offensive line that wasn't great to begin with in 2013 and offered very little help from the bench when the starters went down. This isn't about plugging a couple of holes; it's about improving the overall quality of a unit that's been neglected. Targeting the best guards available in free agency would be a fine start.

Eli Manning contract thoughts

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
12:40
PM ET
When the offseason began, one of the things of which I felt certain was that the New York Giants would extend quarterback Eli Manning's contract before the start of the 2014 season. According to a Star-Ledger report last week, I was wrong. This happens from time to time, as my regular readers know, and when it does I sometimes feel it's worth examining why. So here are some thoughts on why the situation may have changed:

Manning
Cap room. The Giants could clear something like $11 million in salary-cap room if they extended Manning's contract beyond 2015, which is when it's currently set to expire. There's no team in the league that couldn't use that, and when the offseason began it appeared to be the clearest path for the Giants to attain the kind of cap relief they were going to need. However, the league may be providing that cap room instead. Initially projected to be around $126.3 million, the salary cap for 2014 now appears set to rise into the low $130 millions, which would offer perpetually strapped teams like the Giants room they didn't expect to have. They'll add about $9 million if and when they release (or slash the salaries of) Chris Snee and David Baas, and they should have plenty of room to maneuver now without extending Manning.

Desire. Negotiating an extension with Manning now, after he threw 27 interceptions in 2013, would put the Giants in a position of strength. If he goes out and has a big 2014 and wins another Super Bowl, he's going to be the one with the leverage (and only one year left on his deal), and the Giants would have to pay more to keep him than they would if they did the deal now. But (a) it takes two to tango, and for those same reasons Manning may not want to talk deal this offseason and (b) the quarterback market isn't rising too crazily beyond the place Manning already occupies in it. If Manning signs next year for a deal similar to the ones Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler got the last two offseasons, his cap number isn't going to be any higher than it already is. The Giants are used to trying to balance their budget around a $20 million quarterback cap number, and it's not as though he's going to take it to $25 million with one big year.

Legitimate questions. The Giants may be wondering about Manning as a long-term investment. I think they still believe he's capable of playing at a high level and taking them where they need to go, but in the wake of 2013, the Giants have legitimate questions about the direction of their franchise. Manning and Tom Coughlin are signed through 2015, as is the young, new offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, who's never called plays or run his own offense before. The next two years could go well or could go poorly, and if they go poorly, the Giants may find themselves in a position to completely reboot as they did in 2004 when they hired Coughlin and drafted Manning. Committing to Manning beyond that at this point may just be something they thought they wanted to do but now aren't so sure.
The single most important thing for the New York Giants to do this offseason is put back together their offensive line. With Kevin Boothe a free agent and the contract situations of David Baas and Chris Snee in limbo, it looks as though they could need new starters at center and both guard spots. Free agency offers a chance to address, that, and here's a list of the top players available at those positions:

CENTER

1. Alex Mack, Cleveland. The top target, though the Browns and other teams will push hard. If the Giants are going to pay a premium price for a center, this is the guy to pay.

2. Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay. Like Mack, he'll be 28 when the season opens and in his prime. The Packers are likely to try to keep him.

3. Brian De La Puente, New Orleans. He turns 29 in May and the Saints have enough depth on the interior of their line that they could let him walk.

GUARD

1. Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City. Took over for Jon Asamoah in the second half and played well. Doesn't turn 28 until July.

2. Travelle Wharton, Carolina. He'll turn 33 in May, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 3 left guard in 2013.

3. Jon Asamoah, Kansas City. Schwartz outplayed him and maybe he'll want to leave town after having been benched.
Four months ago, he ranked among the biggest question marks on the New York Giants' offense. But for a variety of reasons, some good and some bad, rookie right tackle Justin Pugh has turned out to be one of that offense's few known quantities.

The Giants' first-round pick from the 2013 draft, Pugh has started every game this season at right tackle. As befits a first-round rookie asked to start immediately, he's had some good days and some bad days, and he and the team enjoy the fact he's made steady progress.

[+] EnlargeJustin Pugh
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe offseason should bring about plenty of configuring for Giants coaches on where exactly Justin Pugh will play on the line in 2014.
"I think my knowledge of the playbook has gotten better each and every week, so I'm better at that," Pugh said Monday when asked how he's improved from Week 1 to Week 17. "I have to keep working on my hands and doing the right things with my hands and feet. That's just something you keep getting better at so you have that confidence to go out and and do the things you need to do. I still have a lot to learn this offseason. It's going to be a big offseason for me."

It's going to be a big offseason for the Giants' offensive line in general. Pugh and left tackle Will Beatty, who's been very disappointing in the first year of his five-year free-agent contract, are the only two current starters who are sure things to return in 2014. The line must and likely will be a prime focus for the Giants in free agency and the draft, and Pugh's place in the plans for 2014 and beyond is only one very interesting aspect of the whole situation.

The Giants are happy with Pugh at right tackle and could very well decide to leave him there. But the reason they drafted him in the first round this year wasn't necessarily to make him a starting right tackle right away and forever. It was because they didn't know what their line needs were going to be next year and into the future, and they believed Pugh to be the kind of smart, versatile, all-around talent who could play several positions. Many evaluators said prior to the draft that Pugh was better suited at guard at the NFL level due to relatively short arms. The Giants don't necessarily agree, but if they were to, say, draft a big-time tackle in the first round (where they'll pick somewhere between ninth and 15th), they could move Pugh inside. If he's effective at tackle, he could be downright dominant at guard, and adding a first-round talent at tackle would strengthen the talent level of the line overall.

And inside is where they need help. Injured starting center David Baas is a likely cap casualty. Longtime right guard Chris Snee is as well, and Snee has had enough hip surgeries the past two years to make one wonder if he might decide to retire. Kevin Boothe, who has played left guard and center this year, is a free agent. James Brewer doesn't look starter-ready, Jim Cordle didn't look like a long-term answer at center prior to his injury, and Brandon Mosley played one series before breaking his hand, so it's hard to know what they have there.

My guess is that they cut Baas loose and get a center on the free-agent market. I think they re-sign Boothe, since they like him and he's happy here, as a possible starter or at least a versatile backup at several positions. But on the right side, it's a mystery. I know what I think they should do, which is the thing I just said about drafting a tackle and moving Pugh inside. But I don't think they will do that, since it would be more in-character for them to use such a high pick on a marquee position like wide receiver or pass-rusher. So my early guess is that they look for economical solutions at guard and center on the free-agent market and leave Pugh at right tackle while hoping Beatty gets better.

The one issue that stands out as interesting on its own is that of Snee, who is the son-in-law of head coach Tom Coughlin and, as such, has ties to the organization that others don't. That dynamic, combined with the extent of Snee's service to the team, could affect the way the team makes decisions about that particular player. And the solution on Snee, whatever it turns out to be, will have a ripple effect across the line.

Tuck rules right on time vs. Redskins

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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LANDOVER, Md. -- It's not completely accurate to say Justin Tuck needed a game like this, because Tuck doesn't really "need" anything. Yes, Sunday was the first day of the final month of Tuck's current New York Giants contract. But he hasn't been sweating that all year, so there's no reason to expect him to start now.

"This is a guy who's got two Super Bowls and a Pro Bowl under his belt," teammate Mathias Kiwanuka said after watching Tuck collect a career-high four sacks in the Giants' 24-17 victory over the Redskins Sunday night at FedEx Field. "I feel like, whatever happens with him, he's going to be fine."

Tuck thinks that, too, which is probably the reason why this contract year hasn't seemed to bother him the way it has appeared to affect, say, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Tuck didn’t love the fact that he only had 2½ sacks in his first 11 games of the season, but he felt he'd been playing well. He had graded out consistently well against the run all year, and he'd been jokingly calling himself "Mr. Almost" in reference to the number of times he felt he'd been very close but the quarterback got away.

"I missed some tonight, too," he said with a grin Sunday night. "Sometimes it can be hard to believe. We come in and we all say the right things sometimes, but sometimes, in the back of your head, you're thinking, 'It's time.'"

Tuck's time to get the sacks was Sunday. With fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul out with a shoulder injury, Tuck and Kiwanuka weren't coming off the field against the Redskins, and they felt added responsibility to deliver in a big way. Tuck realized what he was doing was special as he was doing it, but he still managed to maintain the same mellow focus that has guided him through a 2013 season that hasn't been easy for him or the team.

"Somebody asked me on the sideline how I felt when there were three minutes left, and I said, 'Ask me in three minutes,'" Tuck said. "It's a big feat, obviously, but we have to win. If I had been standing there with four sacks and a loss, I wouldn't have given two cents about four sacks."

Tuck symbolizes so much about the Giants right now. His ability as one of their captains to keep his cool and perspective through the 0-6 start is a big reason why they've been able to win five of their last six. But looking beyond this year, Tuck symbolizes a franchise that obviously needs to rebuild while confronting difficult decisions about some of its championship mainstays.

"Everyone knows I'm a New York Giant through and through," Tuck said. "People ask me, 'Do you want to be here next year?' and that's a stupid question. Of course I do."

When the season began, Tuck was coming off a couple of down years by his standards, and it was reasonable to think he needed a big year if he wanted to convince the Giants to keep him. They have a big decision to make on Nicks, who continues to slog through a miserable contract year that's hurting his chances to return. They're confronting unwieldy cap numbers on guys such as Kiwanuka, Antrel Rolle, Chris Snee and David Baas. And of course, Tuck is a free agent. These are Giants who have won championships, some more than one. They are Ring of Honor candidates who will forever be beloved and welcomed back by the team's owners and fans. Yet, for the nitty-gritty financial reasons that govern today's NFL, it's impossible to say whether they'll be on the team next season.

[+] EnlargeJustin Tuck
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesJustin Tuck's career-high four sacks helped the Giants rally from a 14-0 deficit and take down the Redskins on the road Sunday night.
Each and every one of them would do well to follow Tuck's example, and not just the one he set Sunday night by dominating the game on defense.

"That's the way you lead," said defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is also headed for free agency and doesn't know his Giants future beyond New Year's Eve. "You lead by showing, and tonight he had a great game."

From the standpoint of a player in a contract season, Tuck has led by example since the start of training camp. His season to date has been a clinic in focusing on what you can control and not worrying yourself silly over the stuff you can't. You would never know, from spending any time around Tuck, that he's in the final month of a contract.

"Because he's never let that be a focal point," Kiwanuka said. "You know he wants to do well, like everybody wants to do well in a contract year. And when a guy comes out and continues to work, continues to work and puts in the time day in and day out the way that guy does, you wish good things for him.

"Four sacks is huge for a guy who does all the little things that don't show up in the numbers. You look, on third downs, we're using him inside as an inside rusher. Nobody talks about that and the effect it has on your sack numbers. But coaches who are evaluating what we do can tell you he's having a very good year. I'd be very surprised if he's not back here next year."

That didn't seem likely three months ago, and it might not be the case. But the way Tuck has played and handled himself this year has set him up well. And after a night like Tuck had Sunday, you start to think Kiwanuka might just turn out to be right.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants center David Baas missed three games with a neck injury, returned to start Monday night's game against the Vikings and ... limped off the field during the first drive of the game and didn't return. Baas injured his left knee and will have an MRI on Tuesday, but he did not sound optimistic about the results.

Baas
"We think we have an idea what it is," Baas said. "Hopefully it's not what we think, but we'll see. Obviously it's frustrating, because you feel like you can't catch a break. But it is what it is."

If "what it is" is a torn knee ligament, obviously the Giants could be without Baas for the remainder of this season. Jim Cordle took over at center and would be the most likely replacement.

Defensive end Justin Tuck left the game briefly in the fourth quarter in a lot of pain, but returned shortly thereafter. Tuck said the problem was a dislocated finger, but that he was fine as soon as he popped it back into place. This is, apparently, something that happens to him with some sort of frequency. He went for X-rays after the game, but he should be okay to play Sunday.

Tuck also got a sack in the game. He had a half a sack in the season opener in Dallas but was shut out in that category since. He did his trademark bow after bringing down Josh Freeman on Monday.

"I almost forgot how to do it, honestly," Tuck said.

Running back Brandon Jacobs was inactive for the game after rushing for 106 yards in Week 6 in Chicago and injuring his hamstring last week. Jacobs said he was told Monday morning he wouldn't be playing. He hopes to be able to play Sunday in Philadelphia.

"I'm hoping and praying," he said. "I think they made the right call (Monday). The medical staff said I could have gotten out there and pulled it, and it could have ended up being worse."

Newly signed running back Peyton Hillis rushed for 36 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown and caught five passes for 45 yards. Rookie Michael Cox rushed for 23 yards on 11 carries and caught two short passes.

Locker Room Buzz: New York Giants

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
12:50
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Giants' 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings:

Manning
Sweet relief: There were smiles. There was chatter. There were willing interview subjects as far as the eye could see. For the first time this season, the Giants had won a game, and they felt as though a weight had been lifted. "It's good to be smiling," Eli Manning said. "It's good to have that feeling in the locker room again."

Surprise, surprise: The Vikings ran 54 pass plays and 14 running plays, in spite of the fact that their running back, Adrian Peterson, is the reigning NFL MVP and their quarterback, Josh Freeman, has been on the team less than two weeks. Justin Tuck said the Giants' defense was surprised. "A little bit. A little bit, yeah," Tuck said. "Especially with Josh just being there a couple of weeks, we were really prepared to see a lot of No. 28."

Hurt again: After missing three games with a neck injury, center David Baas injured his left knee on the first series and sat out the rest of the game. He'll have an MRI on Monday but isn't optimistic. "I can't catch a break," Baas said.

Jacobs out, Cox to make first start

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
7:30
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eleven days after rushing for 106 yards in a loss to the Bears, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is inactive for Monday night's game against the Vikings due to a hamstring injury. That means rookie Michael Cox, who was the second-to-last pick in this year's draft and has not had a carry yet this season, will be the starting running back for the Giants on Monday. Newly signed veteran Peyton Hillis and fullback John Conner are the only other two active running backs for the Giants, who have lost David Wilson, Andre Brown and Da'Rel Scott to injury so far this season and are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game.

In other player-eligibility news, cornerback Corey Webster is active for the first time since Week 2. He's been out with a groin injury, and he may not be all the way healthy yet, as the team lists Trumaine McBride as a starting cornerback and Webster as a reserve for this game. Center David Baas is active for the first time since he injured his neck in a Week 3 loss in Carolina, and he is starting at center.

Jacobs missed practice Saturday with the hamstring injury and couldn't recover in time for the game. Cox, who has contributed on special teams but hasn't yet contributed as a running back, was coming along in practice and apparently has shown enough to earn the coaches' trust as the Giants continue to look for their first victory of the season. It remains to be seen how the carries will break down between him and Hillis, and what the Giants will do with their running backs on third downs and in pass-protection situations. But when they list a guy as the starter, he tends to be the one who gets the most work. (Unless he does something crazy like fumble twice in the season opener against the Cowboys.)

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who was active for the last two games, is inactive as he was for the first four games of the season. The Giants are deep with veterans at defensive tackle, and when all of the defensive linemen have been fully healthy this year, Hankins has been the odd man out. He played very well against the Eagles in Week 5, a little bit less well against the Bears in Week 6, and while the Giants like him and wouldn't hesitate to use him, they believe guys like Mike Patterson and Shaun Rogers are better bench options for them at that position at this time.

Also inactive for the Giants besides Jacobs, Wilson and Hankins are quarterback Ryan Nassib, tight end Adrien Robinson, safety Cooper Taylor and cornerback Jayron Hosley. Of those, Nassib (who is the third quarterback and has been inactive for every game) is the only one who has not been dealing with an injury of some sort.

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