COMMENTARY | The New York Giants will soon have some interesting decisions to make regarding how to approach several of their impending free agents, five of whom in particular pose interesting dilemmas.
Wide Receiver Victor CruzThe Giants and Cruz, a restricted free agent, both have said that they'd like to work out a long-term deal that will keep the Pro Bowl receiver in blue for many years to come. However, co-owner John Mara said during Super Bowl week that while the team would love to have Cruz back, they have a limit as to how much they're willing to pay.
New York will more than likely apply the highest tender ($2.879 million) to Cruz, an amount that carries a first round draft pick as compensation if another team signs him to an offer sheet that the Giants decline to match. That tender is more than double the amount of the combined base salaries Cruz made during his rookie contract ($1.310 million), and would represent a bargain for the Giants if they can convince the Paterson, N.J. native to take it.
Safety Stevie BrownBrown, a restricted free agent, had a breakout season filling in for the injured Kenny Phillips, leading the Giants with eight interceptions that he returned for 307 yards, a 38.4-yard average.
The two-time "NFC Defensive Player of the Week" winner's eight picks were the most by a Giant since Willie Williams had 10 in 1968. His 307 return yards set a new club season record, besting the previous single-season mark of 251 yards shared by Dick Lynch and Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell.
Brown is almost certain to receive a tender, but it's unlikely that he'll get the top one. A more likely scenario would see Brown, whom the Giants signed as a free agent last winter, given a second-level tender of $2.023 million, which carries a second round draft pick as compensation if he were to sign elsewhere, unlike the lowest tender level of $1.323 million, which in Brown's case would not provide compensation if he leaves.
Left Tackle Will BeattyAfter missing the opening game due to a back injury, Beatty developed into a solid left tackle and the kind of player the Giants envisioned he might become when they picked him in the second round of the 2009 draft.
As has been the trend in the NFL, left tackles entering unrestricted free agency in the prime of their career usually command big paydays. If the Giants can't lock Beatty up to a cap-friendly, long-term deal, don't be surprised if they apply the franchise tag, which, according to NFL.com, is tentatively scheduled to be $9.660 million.
Linebacker Keith RiversAcquired in a trade with the Bengals last spring for a fifth round draft pick, Rivers missed five games in his first season with the Giants. When he was able to get on the field, he showed flashes of the talent that made him the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft.
With the linebacker unit set to undergo a total renovation-in addition to the purging of Boley, the weakside starter, strongside starter Mathias Kiwanuka appears to have converted full time to defensive end while middle linebacker Chase Blackburn is an unrestricted free agent who might not be re-signed--continuity might be what brings Rivers back.
If Rivers agrees to a modest short-term contract that makes it easier to terminate if he can't stay on the field, it just might be worth the gamble because they would be getting a talented player who already has a basic understanding of the team's defensive scheme.
Tight End Martellus BennettBennett, who came over to the Giants last year from the Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent, has taken to the New York area like a hand in glove. He has also expressed interest in having another year to perfect his craft by working with Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
"As a player, I'm still growing up. I haven't hit a plateau or anything like that," he told the New York Daily News in December. "To get another season in this offense, I think I can be twice as good as I was this year."
For that to happen, though, Bennett will probably need to take a deal that is incentive-driven and that is structured over the short term so that if he outperforms the contract, his compensation could be adjusted in a couple of years.
Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based sportswriter who has covered the New York Giants for more than 15 seasons for Inside Football. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.