National Football League free agents will hit the market on Tuesday, March 12 at 4:00 p.m. ET. For the New York Giants, re-signing key players such as restricted free agent Victor Cruz and unrestricted free agent Kevin Boothe are high priorities. However, the G-Men are are up against the salary cap and can't afford to bring everyone back. Thus, some tough decisions must be made on several players. Here are five Big Blue free agents who shouldn't be retained by the team.
Ramses Barden (WR) -- The Giants have given Barden enough chances. In his four years with the team, he's played in 29 games and made 29 catches for 394 yards and no touchdowns. I'd much rather see more of rookie Rueben Randle, who had five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns over the final two games of last season. Re-signing versatile veteran Domenik Hixon is another option.
Kenny Phillips (S) -- All things being equal, I'd like to see the Giants keep Phillips in the fold. But I have a feeling he's going to want too much money. I'd make re-signing RFA Stevie Brown (team-high eight interceptions) a higher priority and let him patrol the secondary with Antrel Rolle. Youngsters Will Hill and Tyler Sash can provide depth at the position, and New York can find another safety in the draft.
Rocky Bernard (DT) -- Before the signing of Cullen Jenkins, I would have made the case for Bernard to stay, but now he's expendable. Jenkins and the heavy-hitting Linval Joseph should provide enough muscle on the inside to stop the run (the Giants allowed 129.1 rushing yards per game in 2012). Plus, don't forget about Marvin Austin, the team's second-round pick in the 2011 draft. If Austin can avoid the injury bug next season, he could provide the team with needed depth at the position.
Chase Blackburn (LB) -- It pains me to list Blackburn, the team's leading tackler this past season. He's a blue-collar linebacker and one of the unsung heroes of the 2011 championship team. However, Blackburn isn't a legitimate starting linebacker in the NFL, in my opinion. Prior to 2012, he had 22 career starts in seven seasons and his career high in tackles was 61. The Giants are better off re-signing UFA Keith Rivers and rotating the younger Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger.
Osi Umenyiora (DE) -- As much as I like Umenyiora, he's looking to cash in on his career accomplishments with the Giants (75 sacks, two Pro Bowls). So, as a pure financial decision, the Giants most likely will be forced to let him go -- that's OK. The Giants have other options, such as taking a defensive end with their first-round pick in the draft or staying in house to fill the position. Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and hybrid linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka can rush the passer next season.
Would you like to see the Giants re-sign any of these free agents? Which current free agent should be the team's top priority? Let me know in the comments section below.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo! Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.
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