Dec 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck (91) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Tuck had one of the best year’s of his career in 2013, piling up 11 sacks on what was a very lousy pass rush that ranked 25th in the NFL. Luckily for him, he had his bounce-back year right before he hit free-agency. He and his agent are expecting big money, even though during the previous two seasons he recorded only 9 sacks while dealing with various injuries. The words of his agent:
“He obviously had an incredible season last year with every stat he had with the tackles, tackles for loss, the hurries and the sacks. They were up there with the upper-echelon defensive linemen.”
Upper-echelon linemen are not cheap, just wait until Greg Hardy, Brian Orakpo and others get paid heftily and you will see what I mean. But is the organization wise to let him walk? The Giants are in dire need of a consistent pass rush, and losing a player that garnered nearly a third of your sack total is not the most ideal situation.
The question is not whether Tuck is a valuable asset, because he unquestionably is. But is he worth the big bucks? Let’s keep in mind that 8 of his eleven sacks came in three games against the Redskins and the Chargers — two teams that struggled in pass protection all year and were in the lower half of the league in sacks allowed. Granted, he did have 44 quarterback hurries on the year, one less than Carolina DE Greg Hardy, and had a PFF run grade of +11.7.
The big factor you have to take into consideration is age. Tuck is turning 31 this March and is well past his prime. Would he be able to put up this type of production on a consistent basis, something he has never seemed to do before? In 9 seasons of play, he’s only averaged around six and a half sacks per year, the type of production expected from a second option.
With the salary level that he’s demanding, would the Giants would be wise to go out and get a younger DE with more potential, say someone like Michael Bennett? The Giants have around $16 million in free cap space, which seems like a lot, until you realize that they have 27 free agents they need to either re-sign or replace.
I think the Giants GM Jerry Reese made the right decision in letting Tuck leave along with all the other veteran free agents. What do you think?