Can the Giants repeat in ‘09? What does General Manager Jerry Reese have to do to keep the Giants’ momentum going this year and beyond?
Here’s how the world champions can accomplish both as they approach the offseason:
Re-sign Kawika Mitchell and Gibril Wilson
With a reported cap space of nearly $20 million, the Giants shouldn’t spend all their cash on the star-power coming on the market. Instead, the GM should cultivate his home field. Mitchell struggled at times this season as he attempted to get comfortable in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. But by Week 16 in Buffalo, the hard-hitting outside linebacker began fitting in nicely, showing some speed off the edge in blitz packages. Wilson could see what the rest of the league has to offer after showing versatility both against the run and in pass coverage. If the Giants aren’t able to show the former fifth round pick a long-term commitment, he might be on the way out. If that scenario occurs, plugging the gap at safety will become their new focus. Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin would be a great replacement if Wilson decides to leave.
Linebacker is a priority
Despite Mitchell’s impressive late-season play and the return of Mathias Kiwanuka from injury, neither is a terrific defender in coverage. The Giants could use some depth at the position as well as a player with the kind of cover skills that would help on passing downs.
Allow free agents Reggie Torbor, Derrick Ward and Lawrence Tynes to walk
Torbor did a pretty good job replacing Kiwanuka at linebacker, but he may cost too much as a bench player. The Giants are also interested in developing Gerris Wilkinson at the same position. Ward had a breakout year until he fractured his fibula and could look for a deal as a #2 running back for a team searching for a small option to catch out of the backfield (much like Maurice Jones-Drew or Reggie Bush). If he does choose to re-sign, he’ll be third on the depth chart behind Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. As for Tynes, his inconsistency this year might be enough for the Giants to let him walk. Kickers are always available in free agency or late in the draft.
Plead for one more year out of Michael Strahan
The gregarious, gap-toothed leader finally got his ring. However, the Giants are still contenders going into the 2008 season, especially with the other elements of the so-called Four Aces pass rush still intact. (Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Kiwanuka). Even at 36, Strahan proved he was still effective, posting 9.0 sacks and stopping running backs as he’s done throughout his career. Now that Spagnuolo is back, why not follow suit and play for one more title?
Draft a cornerback and an offensive lineman for development
It’s no coincidence that when Corey Webster took a huge step forward, so did the Giants. And even after Reese used his first draft pick as GM on talented cornerback Aaron Ross, Sam Madison isn’t getting any younger. Acquiring a talented rookie at that position is a great way to look past next season. The same goes for a lineman who can take his time to learn how to play in the NFL. Though the impressive offensive line gelled this season and became one of the best units in the league, the Giants should still have a look down the road at the team that will take the field in 2010 with four starters over the age of 30.