On Wednesday afternoon, Osi Umenyiora appeared on WFAN and said the following:
“I’’m not going to be a back up player, I can promise you that,” Umenyiora said. “I’ll stop playing football before I do that ever again. This has been just the worst off-season of my entire life. I can’t even think of a time when things were this bad during the off-season. You’’re supposed to be relaxing, but I can’t relax because all I can think of is the things that took place last season. So for me, it’’s not something that I’’m going to do. And if I’’m asked to come back there and do that then I’’ll just stop playing football.””
Wow. Before we start thinking about how the Giants handle the Osi situation (for this off-season, let’s just say we will be on “Osi Watch,” until this issue is resolved), it is important to remember the following: Even though returning from major knee surgery (if you recall Osi went under the knife and was sent to I.R for the 2009 season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee during the preseason), Osi still led the G-men in sacks (7.5). Granted, Osi’s sack total may not have lead the Giants if Justin Tuck was healthy all year, or if Mathias Kiwanuka turned a few of those team high quarterback hits into sacks).
Let’s begin by recognizing Osi is Giant property until his contract expires in 2012 (Osi signed a Giant six year contract extension in December of 2005; Osi received $15 million guaranteed, total contract value of $41 million). Now, to be fair, the defensive struggles which ruined the Giants season in 2009 are not all Osi’s fault (though I doubt I am not the only one who cringed every time Osi would take a ridiculous wide angle on his pass rush moves, thus opening a huge hole on the right side of the defense).
So, what is Jerry Reese to do with Osi? Right now the Giant stance is that Osi is an integral member of this defense and will be counted on as a major factor in the pass rush (given that new Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell referred to Osi as a “starter,”) I have to imagine that the Giants want to make this work and hope that Osi is even better and stronger in his second season removed from knee surgery. On the plus side, at least Osi plays with emotion and he plays hard. On the down side, Osi has to do defend the run better than in 2009.
My guess is that the Giants will continue to say all the right things, but, if presented with a deal of real value (multiple high picks or player/picks combo), say from the likes of former D-coordinator and now head coach of the Rams, Steve Spagnuolo, they will have to listen. Pass rushers who make their living off the edge are hard to find, and when Osi is healthy and his head is right, he can be an impact play maker from the defensive end position. The last thing the G-men want or need is an unhappy player causing divisiveness in the locker room (and we know what happens with unhappy campers, see Jeremy Shockey and/or Plaxico Burress). For now, we remain on “Osi Watch.”