By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
The first round of the NFL draft starts at 8 p.m. tonight. So, we should all be talking about what stud/franchise-builder the Jets and Giants are going to pick, right?
You’d think so. But when it comes down to it, whoever the squads make their No. 1 will probably get stuck in some sort of learning curve, unless he gets injured outright like 2011’s Giants choice of cornerback Prince Amukamara. His training camp foot injury kept him out nine games and set him back significantly as a player.
Both teams have bigger issues heading into the draft than the top pick; problems with two unhappy key defensive veterans that should be sorted out as soon after the draft as possible.
Giants pass rusher Osi Umenyiora and his long, national nightmare of a contractual soap opera continues to play out, and has triggered a recent rumor that the Giants could trade him in the next day or so for as low as a third-round pick. And Jets shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis is making noises again about holding out of camp for a second time in three years if Mike Tannenbaum doesn’t sweeten his deal.
Osi first. According to one published report, two NFL sources denied the Giants were even considering trading their star defensive end, who has one year and $3.975 million left on a contract he’s been trying to renegotiate for, like, ever. Have to say, even with the presence of blossoming line luminary Jason Pierre-Paul, one can never have enough pass rushers. So to get rid of a guy who just put up 12 ½ sacks for you would be kind of foolish.
The Giants’ defense was susceptible enough before the playoffs last season. Imagine what it might have been like without Umenyiora’s penetration, or the oft-used two-pronged rush of Umenyiora from the weak side and Pierre-Paul on the strong side.
Jerry Reese doesn’t trade players for picks on draft day, anyway. He’s not one to give away proven production for potential. Draft picks, yes. But not veterans. So he’ll probably sit with Umenyiora and withstand another offseason of contract complaints — the DE hinted to WFAN that he wants something between the four-year, $36 million deal Robert Mathis got from the Colts and the four-year, $48 million pact Trent Cole received from the Eagles. Whether he holds out of camp remains undetermined.
Reese will probably let him play out his contract and then make a decision in next year’s free agency. The agita in the GM’s belly can be taken care of with a pack of over-the-counter anti-acids. But at least he won’t lose a valuable pass rusher and turnover creator.
Revis could well hold out again, as he believes he has outplayed the four-year, $46 million deal that ended his 35-day camp absence in 2010. While it’s true that Revis had an off year — for his standards — there’s no question the Jets need him to hit camp on time to better stabilize a defensive backfield that is in flux.
They also need him for chemistry purposes. 2011 isn’t so far in the past that the Jets coaching staff has forgotten about the locker room upheaval that went along with the 8-8 record. Revis, one of the few voices of reason in there, will be needed to re-establish a calm, unified atmosphere and counteract the attitudinal disease of Santonio Holmes.
Revis has said the Jets can put it all back together as a team, but they’ll need him in there from the get-go to help with the harmonizing. A holdout would not only hurt him, but Rex Ryan’s plans for a happy working place, too.
All eyes are on the draft this weekend. But after that, both Reese and Tannenbaum had best address their two big problems. Quite simply, there is no substitute for proven success.
Not even possible Giants pick, TE Coby Fleener of Stanford, or Jets possibility, S Mark Barron of Alabama trumps those guys.
What should the Giants do with Osi? The Jets with Darrelle? Sound off in the comments below…