By Ernie Palladino
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Jerry Reese has been working his usual overtime these days, trying to pare down and bulk up a Giants roster that started the offseason well over the salary cap and is expected to stay level at about $121 million.
So far, he has let go Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley and Chris Canty for some big savings to bring him about $3 million under the cap. But that still leaves him with some big decisions.
With Osi Umenyiora due to hit the free-agent market on March 12, should he make any attempt to re-sign him? How much should he pay Victor Cruz? Does he keep or release David Diehl? Was Monday’s re-signing of Terrell Thomas a smart move? How about Corey Webster?
Let’s take the questions one by one.
UMENYIORA — Yes. Absolutely. The master of the strip-sack will probably find more lucrative pastures out in the open market, but the Giants shouldn’t close themselves off from re-signing him if he doesn’t As big a pain as he’s been to Reese over the past few years, the words of Reese’s mentor and former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi should ring in his ears. When Accorsi drafted Mathias Kiwanuka in the first round despite the presence of Michael Strahan, Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, he said, “Pass rushers are like pitchers — you can never have enough of them.” The same holds true now, even though Tuck, Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul present a tough-looking front despite the low sack figures from last season.
CRUZ — He’s going to receive a $2.9 million restricted free-agent tender, but that’s just a placeholder for the big-money deal coming his way. The Giants have said that locking up Hakeem Nicks past the final year of his rookie contract is a monetary priority, but that might be a mistake. Cruz has been healthier than Nicks, who has battled foot and knee injuries the past two years. If Nicks can revert to his old game-breaking self next year, then the Giants will have gambled right. But there’s no guarantee of that, whereas in Cruz they’re dealing with a healthy, ultra-productive, work-your-tail-off receiver. If they’re going to break the bank on somebody, it should be him right now.
DIEHL — As steady as Diehl has been over the years, he’s the oldest member of the offensive line and he’s starting to break down physically. He missed significant time with a sprained knee and a burner, and he really only came back into the lineup because Sean Locklear’s season ended on December 3 with a knee injury against the Redskins. If Locklear is on schedule to return, Diehl becomes highly expendable. Maybe it’s time to cut the 10-year veteran loose and take the $4.8 million savings.
THOMAS — Three torn ACLs in the same knee? It’s a risk of a roster spot, even if it comes at a far more economical price than the original four-year, $28.4 million deal that Reese tore up. But if there is any one player who can pull this off, it’s Thomas. He’s worked his butt off to get to a point where the Giants will willingly take a chance on him, so why not? If he does become the second player in history to come back from three ACL reconstructions — Panthers LB Thomas Davis was the first — the Giants might have themselves a cheap option at safety. If not, hey — they took a shot.
WEBSTER — Bye. Or at least they should say that. He had an awfully rocky season at left cornerback, and not just because of that horror show against Baltimore where Joe Flacco picked him to pieces. He gave up 988 yards in coverage and eight touchdowns, the second-highest total among cornerbacks in the league. The Giants will always remember his hero days back in 2007, especially that huge interception in Ice Bowl II. But that was five years ago. This is now. He fell off the cliff in 2012, and there is little reason to think he’ll scale it again. It’s time to cut bait and save that $7.25 million on the cap.
What should Jerry Reese do with Osi Umenyiora, Victor Cruz, David Diehl and Corey Webster? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…