COMMENTARY | As reported by the Associated Press, the New York Giants released veteran linebacker Michael Boley on Tuesday, February 5. So what does it mean for Big Blue?
For starters, it's going to help the Giants get under the salary cap for next season (New York is projected to be $4.7 million over the cap in 2013, according to ESPN's John Clayton). Boley was scheduled to make $4.25 million in the final year of his contract. In my opinion, part of that money would be better spent on unrestricted free agents, including offensive linemen Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe, plus restricted free agents Victor Cruz and Stevie Brown. But it's not just about the money.
Boley was productive in his tenure with the Giants. In four seasons, he recorded 315 tackles (237 solo), three interceptions and five fumble recoveries. However, the team was horrible against the run in the second half of the season and needs to get younger and faster at the linebacker position. Boley's release most likely opens the door for Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger to see more snaps. Moreover, the Giants could turn to Chase Blackburn, who made a team-leading 98 tackles in 2012, or Mark Herzlich to fill in at the position. All of them are younger than Boley.
Williams, the team's sixth-round pick in 2011, seems to have the most potential of the bunch. He's demonstrated sideline-to-sideline range and the ability to defend against the pass. Last season, he played in all 16 games and made a career-high 78 tackles. It'll be interesting to see what the Giants decide to do with Blackburn (UFA), Paysinger and Herzlich, as well as UFA Keith Rivers, a versatile defender when healthy. If they stick, they'll step into bigger roles next season.
The Giants' failure to stop the run is one of the biggest reasons they missed the playoffs this past season. New York allowed at least 100 yards rushing in each of its last six games and finished year ranked No. 25 against the run. The G-Men may look to make up for the deduction of Boley by adding a run-stopper in the draft, but really the are counting on their younger linebackers to step up.
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.