Free agency discussion: Should the Giants resign Steve Smith?

The Newark Star-Ledger’s pro football writers had a discussion about free agency.  During their conversation,  Giants beat writer Mike Garafolo mentioned the Giants have 20 free agents.  

According Big Blue Interactive,  here is a list of all twenty Giants free agents.

Jim Sorgi
Ahmad Bradshaw
D.J. Ware
Bear Pascoe
Kevin Boss
Kevin Boothe
Jamon Meredith
Steve Smith
Domenik Hixon
Michael Clayton
Derek Hagan
Darius Reynaud
Barry Cofield
Dave Tollefson
Mathias Kiwanuka
Gerris Wilkinson
Keith Bulluck
Chase Blackburn
Deon Grant
Michael Johnson

Out of the 20 free agents, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and tight end Kevin Boss have to be resigned.  Additionally, based on his performance last year (started and played in all 16 games, four sacks, two forced fumbles, forty tackles, 14 assists) and with limited production from Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, DT Barry Cofield should be retained too.  As for possession wide receiver Steve Smith, should the Giants reach a long term extension with him?   It all depends on how much money he thinks he is worth.  If he is looking  at making the same kind of money like Anquan Boldin  ( In March 2010, Boldin signed a three year deal worth 25 million dollars-10 million was guaranteed money)  the Giants may decide not to keep him around. And here is why:

1.  The Giants  have so many areas of need:  Linebacker, offensive line, tight end, running back, defensive tackle, and a nickel corner. They may want to use their money on one of the aforementioned positions.

2.  The Giants have two very good receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.  Before he got injured, Nicks was emerging as a top notch receiver in the NFL.  In 13 games played, Nicks caught 79 passes for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Because of his impressive touchdown numbers,  the Giants improved their red zone touchdown percentage from the previous two season.  In 2008,  the Giants were 20th.  While in 2009, the Giants dropped to 21st.  This season the Giants improve to 11th in the league.  Mainly this is because Nicks hauled in SEVEN red zone touchdown passes.  Besides Nicks,  Mario Manningham had a very productive 2010 season.  Manningham had 60 catches for 944 yards and nine touchdowns.   And he lead the team averaging 15.7 yards per catch.  Because Manningham’s stellar play, in November,  The Football Scientist  KC Joyner took notice:  Manningham has posted superb metrics this season. By my count, he has caught 35 of the 47 passes thrown his way and gained 476 yards. Throw in two defensive penalties for 10 yards and it means he has a completion/penalty rate of 75.5% and a yards per attempt (YPA) mark of 9.9. To put those into perspective,
consider that there are normally only around 5-10 wide receivers in the NFL that will post numbers that high in both categories at season’s end.

It isn’t just overall production where Manningham excels. His vertical pass totals (vertical defined as aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) are tremendous. He has 13 receptions in 22 vertical attempts and has tallied 302 yards and three
touchdowns. That equates to a 13.7 vertical YPA, which qualifies Manningham for near-elite status in that metric.

3.  The possibility of Plaxico Burress coming back to the Giants.  Last week, there has been scuttlebutt about a Plax return to New York.   Since his incarceration,  Plax has not played in the NFL since 2008.  Despite being out of the league for two years,  the Giants could get him at a wholesale price.  When the Eagles signed Michael Vick, they gave him a one year contract with an option for a second year.  Likewise, the Giants could do something similar. Having Plaxico Burress back would upgrade the receiver position.  Remember what Brian Dawkins said about the Giants without Plaxico Burress: ”As a defense, you don’t have to be as concerned about roaming from one guy to another because you can’t play Plaxico one-on-one without expecting him to have a huge game”

4.  Like Smith, Domenik HIxon is also a free agent.  Unfortunately, for Hixon,  he suffered a serious knee injury on the new turf at PSL Stadium.  As a result, Hixon was lost for the year.  Clearly, Smith is a much better wide receiver than Hixon.  But Hixon has leverage over Smith because he is a talented special teams returner.  Last year, the Giants struggled in both punt and kickoff returns finishing near the bottom of the league.  It would be wise for the Giants to resign Hixon because the Giants can get him at wholesale and he would uplift their return game.

5.  Medical questions are now present with Steve Smith.  The injury he suffered required microfracture surgery.  Phillips’ limited effectiveness in his 2010 return should be a reminder that this is an uphill battle.
 
Summary-  There is not a single Giants fan who does not recognize the stellar contributions of Steve Smith to this franchise.  Out of loyalty, the Giants will try to stick with Smith the same way they are sticking with Phillips.  But football is still a business.  Steve Smith’s uncanny ability to get open on third down may not be enough for him to be wearing blue in 2011. 

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