By Ernie Palladino
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Jerry Reese did the math a long time ago.
Twenty-seven free agents of all types and a 7-9 record just doesn’t add up. Obviously, the 7-9 is the constant in this equation. It’s history. Nobody can change it.
So Reese goes to the other side of the formula to try to find the thing he can change. Being such a jagged number, especially when placed alongside that ugly won-loss total, that 27 becomes awfully enticing to fiddle around with. Subtract more than a few of those bodies, add a few quality replacements, and perhaps the other side of that plus sign grows more appealing next season.
That’s the attitude Reese will use when free agency opens Tuesday. As he heads into Saturday, the date teams are allowed to begin negotiating with their own free agents exclusively, only a handful of the 27’s agents will actually get through Reese’s door to hear a potential deal. The rest? Off to the blue skies of the open market.
Justin Tuck will be invited into Reese’s inner sanctum, as will linebacker Jon Beason. So should running back Andre Brown.
But Hakeem Nicks’ agent may not even get a hearing; not after a sub-1,000-yard season with nary a touchdown catch. He’ll be looking for huge money despite the down year and injury problems, and that’s the last thing a team planning a major facelift wants to entertain.
These are the things the bad math of losing brings. Tuck, an aging gridiron warrior in the truest sense of the word, will probably get a lowball figure more indicative of his future contributions than reward for all the many positive things he’s done for the franchise, and may well pull up stakes and head elsewhere. Again, it’s what happens when stars lose their luster amid horrible seasons.
Beason, a godsend in the middle, won’t be walking away with a Brinks truck of money, either. The Giants would love to have both back, but at their price. With $19 million of salary cap space, it’s unlikely either Tuck or Beason will command huge numbers. Not when so much refurbishment stands at hand. And certainly not when the Giants have designs on some outside help like Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, who was set to visit the Meadowlands Thursday.
At 28, McClain is young enough to fit the Giants’ needs. And the fact that the Ravens turned him into a cost-cutting casualty only bolsters his value. Not that Reese is going to break the bank on him, either, but the versatile McClain could be worth investing a sizeable chunk of that $19 million cap cushion if he fits Tom Coughlin’s and Perry Fewell’s vision of a newer, faster, hungrier linebacking corps.
Only one thing is certain come Tuesday — the Giants will say farewell to many people, and they won’t think twice about it. As noted before, bad math adds up to a lot of pink slips, even if it means a pile of green paper at the other end for the dearly departed. That is not part of the Giants’ equation.
Reese will be looking for a lot of hellos. Even though he’ll probably retain Brown, he’ll go looking for a backfield complement who can pass-block. Houston’s Ben Tate could be a target, and so could former Giant Ahmad Bradshaw. Hey, why not? They brought back Brandon Jacobs after a year in San Francisco. If Bradshaw can prove his wheels will hold up, Reese might just take a chance on him. Certainly, Green Bay’s James Starks proved exciting at times, and more than capable over the long run.
Wide receivers, something the Giants need if only to keep Victor Cruz from dying of loneliness, will also be floating in and out of the Quest Diagnostic Center.
Cornerback, offensive line, just about everything except quarterback will be open to speculation.
What isn’t speculative is that many of those 27 will have to take their leave. Losers tend to have a lot of dead weight attached to them, and Reese will be shedding himself of several tons over the next month.
It’s all part of rebuilding a loser. Say goodbye to the old, hello to the new. If he does it right, Reese will have a balanced equation when it’s all over.
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