Expect Big Hellos and Sad Goodbyes when glaring needs are addressed
*The opinions and ideas expressed in this article are those of The Blue Streak, and do not necessarily represent the feelings or intentions of the New York Giants organization, it's coaches or players. In other words, if The Blue Streak were running the show, this is how it would go...
Let's start with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Plaxico Burress
His time as a member of the New York Giant is done. Forget about the lateness issues, refusing treatment for injuries and going AWOL on September 22nd. Forget about the insubordination he displayed in arguing on the sidelines with Tom Coughlin during the San Francisco 49ers game, or the stupidity of putting himself and his teammates in danger by carrying a loaded pistol into a night club. Burress' time as a New York Giant is over because the team has learned how to play without him. I'm not saying they're better without him; I'm saying that they've moved on and know that they have some talented receivers in the wings looking to work hard and contribute in a positive way. Plax's poor judgement did something to this team that's unforgiveable - it took away their big-play threat downfield and made life easier for opposing defenses, while placing the burden on everyone else to pick up his slack at the most crucial point in the season.
There are two shining beacons at the top of the mountain, options with great upside for the Giants - one is more attainable than the other. Anquan Boldin would be the first choice as a replacement for Plaxico. The problem here is two fold;
First of all, Boldin is still under contract with the Arizona Cardinals, so this would be a trade scenario. With Steve Breaston on their team, the cardinals may not look for a wide receiver in return and focus on their aging & lackluster linebackers. Would multiple draft picks over a few years and perhaps a desperately needed outside linebacker be enough for the Cardinals to swing a deal with Jerry Reese? Maybe, but since Arizona's primary needs are at OLB and offensive line, the Giants would be forced to chose which very critical piece to remove from their puzzle: The offensive line is not to be touched, and at this moment we will see Mathias Kiwanuka move back to OLB when a healthy Osi Umenyiora takes the field this season. This means that Kiwanuka and Chase Blackburn would be the primary targets Arizona may want for Boldin. If the Cardinals would go for the greatly improved Blackburn (who has two years remaining on a relatively reasonable $3.3 million contract), who can also contribute on special teams, the giants might look to test the waters and extend an offer. If it's Umenyiora they want, I say all bets are off.
Secondly, as great as Boldin is, he's spent the later portion of a very successful year for he and his team publicly complaining about his contract situation and feelings of being disrespected by Cardinals management. Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and others on the team have come to his defense, claiming that Boldin would not be airing his dirty laundry like this unless there was a good reason. No matter the reason, Giants brass might be squeamish about entertaining the notion of replacing one problem with another - even if it's the lesser of two eveils. OK, much less.
Enter the free agent market and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Not as physical as Boldin, not as dominating. But he's a gamer, he's handled himself much better this past season in dealing with a losing team, a maniac for a partner at wide receiver and losing his starting QB for the majority of the year. Granted, T.J. is in a walk year and that's a huge factor in the behavior pattern for any player. Houshmandzadeh and Boldin are the same height (6'1"), but Boldin is three years younger and outweighs T.J. by almost 20 pounds. But both have amazing hands, and T.J. put up incredible numbers this year when you consider that he had Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to him instead of Kurt Warner.
Reese will investigate both possibilities, but the Cardinals - while shopping offers for Boldin - will be looking for ways to keep Boldin in Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald has already offered to restructure his contract - one of the many bugs up Anquan's butt - to convince Boldin to stay). Houshmandzadeh would not only be the easier fish to catch, but would be a more stablizing presence in the locker room and on the field. He'd be the new guy, but his experience and maturity would greatly benefit the Giants offense, especially since it's quite possible that Amani Toomer could be left unrestricted.
Amani Toomer. One of the must under appreciated and most gifted receivers in the league. My gut tells me that with Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham and potentially a pro-bowl caliber replacement for Burress on the squad that The Giants may just walk Amani to the door and thank him for everything. Because Eli Manning has shown confidence and comfortableness with the aforementioned receivers, it's easier for the Giants to make this tough decision and let Toomer go. This may depend on what happens with Derrick Ward, and the chances that Toomer stays increase if Ward decides to go out and get starter money somewhere else. If it's a choice between the two and Ward is willing to stay for the right price, old reliable #81 will most likely have played his last game for Big Blue.
The Running Backs
This will be short and to the point - just like the situation itself. Without question, Derrick Ward is a priority for this team, and there's been little stated publicly by Ward or the Giants regarding his situation. Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese had both said during interviews over the course of the season that Ward is a top priority for them, but they also seem to understand that he's looking forward to going for a starting gig - seemingly resigned to let Derrick make the decision for himself. Coughlin appears confident that Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware will be able to take the next step and move one rung up the ladder in Ward's absence.
The Giants have needs at linebacker and receiver, but Jerry Reese will likely target a potential franchise offensive tackle here. As good as the o-line has been, they aren't getting any younger and odds are this line - that's been pretty healthy and in tact for the past two seasons - will start to break down physically sooner rather than later. He most likely won't fall far enough for the Giants to snag him, but offensive tackle Michael Oher out of Mississippi would be the best pick for Big Blue. They need an OT with the build and pro-level strength to fit right in, preferably allowing David Deihl to move back to his natural position on the right and the injury prone Kareem McKenzie to be the swing tackle (a great option for spelling the starters on a regular basis). He most likely won't fall far enough for the Giants to snag him, but offensive tackle Michael Oher out of Mississippi would be the best pick for Big Blue. If Oher is gone (which he will be), then William Beatty out of Connecticut or Ebon Britton from Arizona would most likely be available, but both are significant drop-offs in value despite their talents. If Reese is undecided about eiter lineman, he may not wait until the second round and grab his other need at linebacker with ILB James Laurinaitis of Ohio State if he's available (Never too soon to start thinking about Antonio Pierce's replacement) or OLB's Larry English (Northern Illinois) or Clay Matthews (Southern Cal).