(Long Island, N.Y.) Trying to improve on a disappointing 2012 season, the New York Giants did indeed need to make some changes. But even though they failed to qualify for the playoffs, they were not that far away from being a contender again.
So with that in mind, general manager Jerry Reese set out to clear some cap space and fill a few holes. There were also some improvements that came about via free agency and retaining the players they already felt comfortable with.
Both sides of the line were addressed in re-signing offensive tackle Will Beatty and defensive tackle Shaun Rodgers, solidifying two spots that are essential for a winning formula. Cullen Jenkins, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, was inked as a free agent to add some more size to the defensive line, but that still did not replace defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who is expected to depart.
Reese let two of his tight ends (Martellus Bennett, Travis Beckum) walk and replaced them with Brandon Myers, late of the Oakland Raiders, who had a very productive season with 79 receptions, 806 yards and four touchdowns in 16 starts.
At kicker, Lawrence Tynes will be replaced by the younger Josh Brown, which may not have been a popular move (with Tynes being responsible for the game-winning kicks in both NFC Championship Games), but a shrewd business one, nonetheless.
The linebacking corps was already a solid one, but appears even better with the re-signing of Keith Rivers and bringing in Dan Connor. The Penn State product had his best year in 2011 with the Carolina Panthers with 75 total tackles (54 solo) and played last season with the division rival Dallas Cowboys. Chase Blackburn is not expected to be brought back, so adding Connor was a sensible move.
In the secondary, safety Kenny Phillips signed a one-year deal with the Eagles and three cornerbacks (Brian Witherspoon, Bruce Johnson and Justin Tryon) will be allowed to sign elsewhere. Aaron Ross was re-signed and safety Ryan Mundy was brought in.
Free agency aside, perhaps Reese’s strongest talent is evaluating college players and the upcoming NFL Draft will play a big part in the Giants proving that 2012 was an aberration. All six players picked remain on the roster and the first round selection, running back David Wilson, is expected to get an opportunity for a lot of carries as Ahmad Bradshaw was released for cap space.
So with the core of the team basically still intact (with the current question mark in the backfield), it is not a stretch to say that the Giants are the favorite to win the NFC East. The Washington Redskins, last season’s top team, will be crossing their fingers that star quarterback Robert Griffin III can come back from ACL surgery after suffering a devastating injury in the Wild Card round. Dallas has their usual pros and cons and the Eagles are in rebuilding mode. So who’s to say that Big Blue doesn’t make a run at the title?
Reese’s track record gives him the benefit of the doubt that the moves he has made – and will continue to make – are the correct ones.