By Ernie Palladino
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The Giants are clearly turning pages these days, remaking their roster to get young, faster, healthier and, yes, more salary-cap friendly.
In light of the release of three of the team’s bigger stars over the past couple of days, it’s no surprise that linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Chris Canty were let go. Both were slowed by injuries, both were 30 years old, and both had able backups eagerly awaiting their chance. In Boley’s case, that would be Jacquian Williams, the fast, cover-capable weak side linebacker, and they can easily re-work the interior line in Canty’s case.
To see them go was only mildly surprising. The truly interesting case was that of running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
Though his release will conserve $2.75 million on a rather stressed salary cap, it still amounted to $4 million less in savings than Canty’s. While it’s true that every little bit helps, the lost a lot in Bradshaw, a running back who overcame injuries to his feet, ankles, hand and neck to remain productive on game day. He rushed for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns last season, and at age 26 would seem to have many good years ahead of him.
Or does he?
Besides money, that had to be a concern. For the better part of the past three seasons, Bradshaw has been the epitome of tough while playing through his various injuries. But his toughness came at a price that not only cost himself in wear-and-tear, but his team in coherency. His need to sit out one, two, sometimes a full week of practice and then play caused the Giants’ offense to stammer from time to time.
Believe it or not, practice is important. A team might be willing to nurse a player along for a year if he’s helping on Sunday. But one with an injury history that shows little chance of abating, thereby chancing a repeat of the same pattern, well, one can see the problem.
His recent surgery to implant yet another screw into his troublesome right foot certainly added to the decision not to invest further in him. And don’t think this wouldn’t have happened if last year’s first-round pick, David Wilson, hadn’t busted out of Tom Coughlin’s doghouse in time to produce a couple of eye-popping performances at the end of their 9-7 season.
Wilson and Andre Brown, the power runner whose eight touchdowns before a broken leg ended his season made people think of a young Brandon Jacobs, will be the new backfield duo, with Da’Rel Scott coming off his mostly missed 2012 season to add a third dimension.
In other words, Jerry Reese cut Bradshaw knowing he still had a full deck at running back. That made releasing one of the heroes of both Super Bowl runs more logical, though no less emotional.
“Pound for pound, Bradshaw is one of the toughest football players I’ve been around,” Reese said. “Ahmad played football like Giants football should be played.”
In another era, the Giants might well have kept Bradshaw around another year, at least through training camp to let him prove his feet could keep him on the practice field. That era ended two decades ago with the advent of free agency and the salary cap. Teams simply can’t afford to take that chance anymore. Not with a player who carries an injury history like Bradshaw.
The Giants certainly got what they could out of the seventh-round pick of 2007. Bradshaw left everything he could on the field.
Neither side has anything to feel bad about.
It was a business decision — but was it a good business decision? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments…