As free agency is set to begin on March 5, 2010, some of the available (reasonable/practical) targets for the G-men are as follows:
Unrestricted Free Agents:
1. Darren Sharper (Saints): Sharper remains a play-maker and true leader in the secondary, even at age 34. The Bad: Sharper is 34, so assuming the Saints and Sharper don’t work out a reasonable deal for both sides (which I believe is the likely outcome), he is not a long-term solution for the Giants. Still, Sharper would provide a stabilizing influence on the field and in the locker room, so expect Jerry Reese to sniff around Sharper if he remains unsigned by the Saints. Quick note: Adam Schefter is reporting that the Saints will not be placing the franchise tag on Sharper which increase the Giants chance at throwing some coin his way and securing Sharper via a nice two year deal.
2. Ryan Clark (Steelers): Clark stepped up big time for the Steelers in 2009, especially considering Troy Polomalu’s absence for most of the year. A big hitter, Clark’s specialty is delivering crushing blows in the run game, but he is also pretty decent in pass coverage (3 interceptions this past year). At 30 years old, Clark may be looking for a pay day but I don’t see Clark as a premier safety and I have the feeling that he returns to Heinz field in 2010.
The unrestricted free agent pool at safety will become a whole lot deeper if Antrel Rolle of the Cardinals is released (expected as Rolle is due a $4 million roster bonus) and the notoriously cheap Cardinals will likely not fork over that kind of coin, to date, attempts at restructuring Rolle’s contract have gone as well as my consultations for hair replacement surgery). The other name to look at is Kerry Rhodes of our friendly, or not so friendly neighbors, the mean green Jets. Rhodes signed a big money contract extension in 2008 (5 years, $33.5 million and is due to receive a roster bonus of $2 million) only to fall out of favor this past season). Rhodes and the Jets may repair their frayed relationship (Rhodes was benched in late November), Rhodes covers a ton of ground in the secondary, loves playing in New York, and would be a huge upgrade in the Giants secondary.
Expect the Giants to kick the tires on two former Tampa Bucs: Jermaine Philips (who would bring nice depth, and, if healthy, is a thumper in the run game and pretty fast for a guy weighing in about 230lbs) and Will Allen (no, he is not the “Will Allen,” who should bring up ugly memories for some Giants fans), this Will Allen is a bit more intriguing (a six year veteran out of Ohio State, Allen is still relatively young at 27).
Restricted Free Agents:
With the anticipation of the “un-capped year,” the pool of unrestricted free agents will shrink significantly (think George Costanza coming out of a cold pool), thus, the Giants (and all other teams) will lose the opportunity to bring in several, in-their-prime players at the safety position.
Unfortunately, it is an impressive list (unlike the list of women on my “I slept with you in college” list), here are the guys worth mentioning (to those not mentioned, don’t feel slighted, this is a blog and if we included everyone than no one will read this, are people reading this anyway?:
1. O.J. Atogwe (Rams) (No I can not pronounce his name), but what I do know is that Atogwe has been a consistent, if not spectacular play-maker for the Rams secondary for the past five seasons. Atogwe is one of the better players you have never heard of (9 forced fumbles in 2008/2009; franchised by the Rams in 2009).
2. Antoine Bethea (Colts): Another young, in his prime, play-maker, the Colts will likely place the highest possible tender on Bethea, especially considering the injury history of his counter-part, mini-me Bob Sanders.
3. Roman Harper: (Saints) Yes, this is the same Roman Harper who the Saints refused to include in the Jeremy Shockey trade; Jerry Reese tried hard behind the scenes to pry Harper from the Saints, smart bet says he goes nowhere but instead remains in the French Quarter amassing the world record for most Mardi Gras beads.
4. George Wilson (Bills): Now we are talking about a legitimate possibility depending on how high a tender the Bills place on old/young George. Wilson is coming off of his finest season (Wilson is a steady performer against both the run and pass; Wilson set career highs in tackles (103) and interceptions (4) in 2009). Why Wilson? Why not? Wilson knows Perry Fewell, is only 28 years old, and may very well be expendable as the Bills return both Donte Whitner and super rookie Byrd at the safety position. If Wilson can be obtained for a 4th or 5th round pick or for a player (think Sinorice Moss, yes he is still on the team), I think Jerry Reese has to bite.
We’ll talk more about safety prospects after the combine concludes. Reminder, get ready for skin tight spandex, stop-watch clocks, and ridiculous commentary through it all as the NFL Combine is set to begin on Wednesday February 24, 2010 and run through March 2, 2010.