If you’ve been following my ‘This Week In Mock Drafts’ feature here at GMEN HQ you probably noticed a trend amongst those mocking players to the Giants in next year’s draft. And that trend would be the selection of linebackers. So far there have been four different linebackers selected by mock draft prognosticators for the Giants. It’s safe to say that linebacker is a need position for the Giants and they probably can’t wait until the 2012 NFL Draft to pick up a new linebacker.
Luckily with the lockout potentially ending soon free agency will finally be allowed to get underway and if that happens the Giants can start addressing their linebacking situation. The first question they’ll have to ask themselves is whether or not to bring Keith Bulluck back? The aging veteran would be a nice keep in the locker room because of his leadership and motivational speaking skills but he’s on the downside of career. Unless he’s willing to stay for cheap he’ll probably try and find somewhere else to play, especially if he still wants to start.
When it comes to free agency and the Giants they usually tend to keep their wallet relatively closed. Unlike the Redskins or Cowboys of years past, unless the Giants needed certain positions to be filled and big name players fit the scheme the Giants would remain quiet. There have been a few exceptions to that rule: Plaxico Burress, Antonio Pierce, Kareem McKenzie, and Chris Canty, to name a few; some were hits, some were misses. But if GM Jerry Reese believes a player would do great things as a Giant he will go after him.
Which brings us to the 2011 NFL linebacker free agency options. As of now, these are the key/contributing linebackers the Giants have on the roster: Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley, Keith Bulluck, Phillip Dillard, Jonathan Goff, and Gerris Wilkinson. There’s also the promising Clint Sintim who was on IR last year so we’re still unsure of what he’s got, plus rookie 6th round picks Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams.
Boley, Goff and Bulluck were the starters last year. We already mentioned that Bulluck is a free agent who might not be retained, which means there might be a spot open on the outside for someone, either a young guy already on the roster or a free agent. As well, Blackburn and Wilkinson are unrestricted free agents and the Giants might move on from them meaning another two spots on the linebacker depth chart could need filling.
Free agency is not always about signing the best player out there. There have been numerous examples of teams, including the Giants, who went after big name, high priced free agents only to watch them flop with their new team. We can call that the Albert Haynesworth Syndrome. The key to free agency is signing a good player who’s a great fit. Someone who knows their role, plays within the system, can play special teams if asked and is good in the locker room. Those are the players the Giants usually go after.
So, which free agent linebackers might fit that mold from this year’s free agent class?
To me, three players stick out. They are Paul Posluszny of the Buffalo Bills, James Anderson of the Carolina Panthers and Antwan Barnes of the San Diego Chargers? A lot of Giants fans might agree or disagree or wonder why I picked only three and I picked these three because they wouldn’t break the bank to sign, are still young and have the potential to be breakout stars. But they would also know their roles if they signed with the Giants.