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Palladino: Umenyiora’s Pay Bump Doesn’t Assure Him Starting Spot

Osi Umenyiora (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Osi Umenyiora (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Osi Umenyiora won’t have to deal with the after-effects of arthroscopic knee surgery this year. Nor must he labor under the notion that the Giants will never give him the pay raise that has prompted his repeated demands for renegotiation or a trade.

That last part was rectified — partially, anyway — last Friday when he signed a deal for a restructured 2012 season that reportedly will double his take to about $7 million before he hits free agency next offseason.

Whether the Giants let the 10th-year veteran head into the unrestricted market without a fight remains to be seen. But make no mistake, the willingness of Umenyiora to sign a better-than-nothing restructuring won’t affect how the Giants use him. And that could impact how they view his future at season’s end.

The situation doesn’t favor the pass rusher, who still recorded nine sacks despite playing just nine games last season. They’re going to owe linemate Justin Tuck $4.5 million next year, the final year of his deal, and will have to pay him big money to keep him out of free agency. Assuming Jason Pierre-Paul continues on an upward performance climb, they’re going to have to rip up the last three years of his rookie contract and pay him oodles more than the $825,000 he’s due this year.

Even Umenyiora knows that, outside of quarterback, a team can’t invest its whole salary cap in one position. So he doesn’t expect a lot of dough will be flowing his way, anyway.

Add to that, if he falls into a subsidiary, situational role behind Pierre-Paul and Tuck, the Giants certainly won’t be breaking the bank to keep the two-time Pro Bowler around.

Not that Jerry Reese needs anybody doing his thinking for him, but Umenyiora offered a suggestion just in case the ledger doesn’t add up.

“If I had to pay two great defensive ends top money, I’d let Osi seek his fortune elsewhere,” Umenyiora said.

The way this year stacks up, it certainly looks like the sacker will be the odd man out on the playing field. Last year’s starting alignment of Tuck on the strong side and Pierre-Paul on the weak side worked quite well for 11 of the 12 games in which Tuck participated.

Assuming continued health for both Tuck and the monster Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora would probably come in on the three or four-defensive end front, with either defensive tackle Chris Canty in the middle or Mathias Kiwanuka coming down from his linebacker spot.

Either way, Umenyiora would officially become a full-time reserve despite playing more than half the snaps against most teams. That’s never conducive to landing big contract numbers. Not the ones he wants, anyway.

On Monday, he attended his first offseason workout, all smiles and happy-to-be-back and we’re-building-something-special. He lavished praise on Tuck and Pierre-Paul. Especially Tuck after the do-it-all end became Umenyiora’s advocate for a new contract during his buddy’s absence.

But it may all be just a prelude to a final farewell.

For now, though, the Giants have the benefit of knowing that Umenyiora’s annual melodrama is over, and that perhaps they’ve seen the end of that play’s run. They’ll get an on-time arrival at training camp, and look toward having him injury free from the regular season get-go.

After that, it all comes down to a question of whether Umenyiora is worth keeping around.

Quite likely, he’ll have to make his case from the vantage point of a non-starter.

Do you think the writing is on the wall for Osi? Be heard in the comments below…