The Giants' defense yielded a franchise-record 6,134 yards in 2012, and while most of the blame was pinned on the team's shaky secondary or lackluster linebackers, Tuck didn't help matters with his uninspired play. The former All-Pro defensive end had only four sacks this past season, his lowest total since an injury-shortened 2006 campaign. Yet, he hasn't been called out or held accountable.
Veterans Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley weren't so lucky. Earlier this offseason, they were released by the Giants in moves designed to save money against the salary cap. Furthermore, Mathias Kiwanuka restructured his contract with the purpose of clearing cap space and he may not be the last player on the team asked to do so. Tuck, who is entering his ninth pro season and the final year of his contract at a base salary of $4.5 million, should be a candidate to redo his deal, too.
But his cap hit isn't the real issue. Even if Tuck restructured his contract, it wouldn't fix the alarming decline in his production. Over the last two seasons, he has a total of nine sacks, 82 tackles and one forced fumble. Only two years ago, Tuck recorded 12 sacks, 76 total tackles and forced six fumbles. In fact, from 2007-10, he amassed 40 sacks, 266 total tackles and caused 16 fumbles. Injuries have been a factor, but the disparity in those numbers is impossible to ignore.
"Justin obviously hasn't played as well as we think he can play and the kind of player he has shown to be in the past," general manager Jerry Reese told Giants.com earlier this month. "Justin and I have recently had a really long conversation and talked about some of those things. He really wants to get back to the old Justin Tuck and be the player that we know him to be."
Reese stopped short of calling out his defensive end, but it's easy to read between the lines. The Giants expect and need more from Tuck next season. But is he capable of giving more or have we seen his best days? Figuring out the answer to that question is another problem.
The Giants have other options at the defensive end position. They could bring back Osi Umenyiora (75.5 career sacks) or put Kiwanuka on the edge. Moreover, the G-Men could take a defensive end with their first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. These are moves that must be considered.
Admit it, the Giants may be better off without Tuck.
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.