For long-time and die-hard Giants fans, the position of Line Backer is one of great tradition and has produced absolute Giants' royalty. It is difficult to fathom that such a once revered position has become one of a revolving door and has been so greatly de-emphasized. Granted the Giants have changed from their former linebacker focused 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense, many years ago, emphasizing the strong D Line play (a key to their last 2 Super Bowl victories). But thinking back to the lineage of former greats that have been revered as "GIANTS LINEBACKERS" one can't help but long for the days of Hall of Fame'rs: Harry Carson, Lawrence "LT" Taylor, and Sam Huff. Also other greats: Carl Banks, Gary Reasons, Pepper Johnson, and Brad Van Pelt.
Since that by-gone era, of the many line backers to play for the Giants in the past 20 seasons, if you asked the moderate Giants fan to name some probably only two would jump out at you: Jesse Armstead and Antonio Pierce. That fact leads me into the focus of this article:
2013: The Linebackers
The 2013 Draft has come and gone / the Restricted Free-Agency signing period has passed and the Giants have only addressed one of their Line backing position needs via adding a player that was not on the roster in 2012. On March 16th the Giants signed Free-Agent Middle-Linebacker Dan Connor away from division rival Dallas Cowboys.
The signing of Connor (6'2" / 241lbs) the 6 year veteran, out of Penn State, was a move of both necessity and one that in a way weakened their division rival. In 2012, the Cowboys were decimated by injury at linebacker; Connor stepped in mid-way through the season as their starting middle line backer and subsequently amassed 56 tackles over 8 games started.
After the addition of Connor, the Giants resigned veteran Free-Agent Outside-Linebacker Keith Rivers, who had originally signed a one year deal to join the Giants via Free Agency entering the 2012 season and another of their own free agents, Line backer Jake Muasau (entering his second season), on January 4th.
At the moment, the Giants have made no other moves to address their Line backing corps needs; in February they released nine year veteran Outside-Line Backer Michael Boley who had been with the team since the 2009 season. Boley had become a chief cog, and highly productive member of Big-Blue's defense.
Currently there are seven Line backers on the roster, including:
- The aforementioned Connor, Rivers, and Muasau
- MLB, Mark Herzlich
- OLB/DE, Mathias Kiwanuka
- LB, Spencer Paysinger
- OLB, Jacquian Williams
In terms of experience and production only Kiwanuka is a name that fans can wrap their minds around, as Kiwi has played the "joker" role of hybrid OLB/DE for the past few seasons. Going into 2013, the prevailing thought is that Kiwi will spend more time on the D Line, than at line backer, as the Giants look to fill the void created by the free-agent departure of Osi Umenyiora. With this in mind the current group is an in-experienced bunch that I and most people would question just how they will fare if thrust into full-time action? Of the remaining group of full-time line backers, Rivers is the most experienced starter having amassed 36 starts in 4 seasons, and Connor with 27 starts in 5 seasons.
The remaining crop of Free-Agents does not have a game breaker; the guys that are house-hold names are guys with quite a bit of tread worn off their tires. Two potential names would be Karlos Dansby, recently with the Dolphins and Nick Barnett formerly with the Bills, each though would be looked at as a stop-gap and more importantly would have to learn a new system which could prove to be a greater issue for the defense.
At the moment the Giants seem to have more questions than right answers for their line backing corps and no outside options with which to turn with the two main new player finding moments (Free-Agency & Draft) having come and gone. The one possibility for the Giants is the resigning of Michael Boley.
Boley of all the free agents remaining would make the most sense toward addressing the current and glaring need at Outside-Line backer. He is a speed guy that most importantly knows Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell's system and most of the guys still in it; meaning he hits the ground running and doesn't come with an inherant learning curve. Boley would have to agree to a one year deal at about 1.4 million, far below the base he had expected prior to being released (4.5 million + 1.4 million signing bonus) but if he is unable to find a team willing to pay him closer to what he expected, and the Giants want him back, it would be the smartest move for both parties. With the unknowns of players like Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger entering the 2013 season without a veteran like Boley could prove disastrous for the Giants D.
What moves could have the Giants made but didn't and of the remaining options what do they need to do? Chime in with your thoughts?