Reinforcing the Lines


Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton’s signing of a one year deal with the Washington Redskins last night signaled a shift in the free agent market. The long term, big money deals are coming to an end, and now that the music has stopped, those players without a chair will scramble to find a spot to sit for the 2015 season. The Giants are missing a starter along their offensive line, as Marshall Newhouse is destined to be no more than the swing tackle, and may be missing as many as two starters on the defensive line. The low hanging fruit has been picked, but Giants360 has scavenged through the bargain bin and found some that’s still edible to reinforce the Giants lines on both sides of the ball.

Defensive Line Options:

There is much more available on defense, as eight of the players identified in the free agency preview series are still available. Greg Hardy is also still on the market, but hell will freeze over before John Mara will sign off on him wearing Giants Blue. Most know Hardy’s story, he was convicted of assault of a former girlfriend, only to have it overturned on appeal when the victim could not be found to testify. Technically, he’s no longer considered guilty, but given the circumstances, the NFL’s black eyes following the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandals this past season, and the Giants interest in maintaining a positive image, Hardy is not an option.

The performance information in this article is gleaned from the wealth of  information at Pro Football Focus, the website that evaluates players independently. It requires a subscription, but their analysis of each player on every play gives the ability to compare players on a level field.

The eight players that remain from our free agent preview spectaculars have a wide range of skills and are presented below, in no particular order, for your further consideration:

Ellis is a run stuffing option.

Ellis is a run stuffing option.

Kenrick Ellis, 27, 6’5″, 346 lbs, 5th season, New York Jets: Ellis is strong run defender, but not accomplished rushing the passer. Playing only defensive tackle, he has only one career sack, and 5 starts in 47 games, with none in 2014. Talented, but stuck behind some premier players one the Jets defensive line, Ellis comes with potential and will be looking to improve upon his $797,500 salary for 2014. He may follow former Jets head coach Rex Ryan to Buffalo. Ellis has a limited history on special teams, an area he would need to contribute there as a role player on the Giants.

Born in Germany, Smith could replace Kuhn as the Giants German connection

Born in Germany, Smith could replace Kuhn as the Giants German connection

D’Anthony Smith, 28, 6’3″, 280 lbs, 6th season, Seattle: Smith is an extremely limited snap option that has shown promise as a run defender and also plays linebacker, end, and tackle. Born in Berlin, Germany, Smith could replace Markus Kuhn as the German born player on the roster, if the Giants are determined to have one. However, in Smith’s case, his potential would remain in front of him. A veteran minimum player, Smith would need to contribute on special teams, something that’s he’s not historically done, in order to make the Giants roster. By waiving Kuhn upon signing Smith, the cap hit would be negligible.

C.J. Mosley, 31, 6’2″, 314 lbs, 11th season, Detroit: Mosley is a stronger run defender than pass rusher, but has 14 career sacks in his career. Another player than may have benefited from playing next to the dominating Suh, Mosley started the 8 games last season that Nick Fairley, recently signed by the St. Louis Rams, missed due to injury. He could be signed for the veteran minimum and would be a strong contributor on special teams.

Chris Canty, 32, 6’7″, 286 lbs, 11th season, Baltimore: A former Giant and Cowboy, the oft injured Canty left New York for greener pastures in Baltimore and picked up another Super Bowl ring in the process. A salary cap cut this past week, Canty made a statement that he does not intend to retire, and is still an effective run defender. He started 11 games for the Ravens in 2014 and appeared in 35 of 48 over the past three seasons, but has had eye, calf, and knee injuries over his career than have limited his game day availability. If he were to sign, for the veteran minimum or slightly more, Canty would be a run stopping role player who would need to be on a snap count to keep him healthy.

Barry Cofield, 30, 6’3″, 305 lbs, 10th season, Washington: Another former Giant who left for a big money contract in 2011, Cofield suffered a high ankle sprain that limited him to just 8 games and 3 starts in 2014, and was released in a salary cap move by the Redskins. Playing nose tackle for the Redskins, Cofield was a more effective pass rusher than run stuffer, but was effective as both for Spagnuolo in his first stint as defensive coordinator, and a reunion might prove fruitful, if Cofield’s contract demands are reasonable. Cofield turns 31 next week and recently had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. Until he completes his surgical rehab, he will not be able to pass a medical evaluation and sign a contract.

George Selvie, 27, 6’4″, 247 lbs, 6th season, Dallas: A strong run defender, Selvie does not offer a lot as a pass rusher, but did improve in this area, having 20 quarterback hits and 50 pressures in the past 3 seasons. A rotational player, Selvie would able to play run defense on early downs before giving way to the pass rushing ends on second and third down passing situations. He played for the veteran minimum in 2014 and would be a bargain option.

Demarcus Dobbs, 27, 6’6″, 275 lbs, 5th season, Seattle: Dobbs is a big bodied run defender that eats up space. With no starts in his 49 career games, Dobbs is a role player who also excels at special teams and would fill a need for the Giants at a reasonable cost, playing short yardage and goal line packages, and improving the quality of special teams.

Spencer can be a dominating player, when healthy.

Spencer can be a dominating player, when healthy.

Anthony Spencer, 31, 6’3″, 261 lbs, 9th season, Dallas: Spencer was a rising star, franchise tagged by the Cowboys in both 2012 and 2013 before microfracture surgery on his left knee derailed his career in October 2013. He is a run stopping threat more than a pass rusher at this point in his career, but two years removed from the surgery, would have some upside, and the Giants could offer a better contract than the always cap strapped Cowboys, who paid him just $1.3 million in 2014. He’s not a special team player, nor a starter, but he would be a run stopping rotational player and a veteran asset to the team.

Upon further review, there are three additional defensive linemen worthy of the Giants consideration:

Johnson

Johnson

Michael Johnson, 28, 6’7″, 260 lbs, 7th season, Tampa Bay: Johnson was signed to a big money free agent contract prior to last season. Fighting through an ankle injury most of the year, Johnson underperformed and was released in a salary cap saving move. He is a strong run defender that can also get after the quarterback, with 30.5 career sacks, and a high of 11.5 in 2012. He would be a bookend with Jason Pierre-Paul and solidify the other edge of the Giants run defense. Johnson does not play special teams. His former team, Cincinnati, and Minnesota have been talking to him, so he won’t come cheap, but properly structured, the Giants could make a contract fit under their shrinking salary cap.

Sealver Siliga, 24, 6’3″, 300 lbs, 4th season, New England: Bill Belichick thought so much of Siliga that he used his precious Injured Reserve, Designated to Return spot for him in 2014. Siliga has a foot injury that required an extended time frame to heal, but he returned to help anchor the Patriots run defense and started 5 games down the stretch and all three of their playoff games. A stout run defender, Siliga offers some push up the middle, as his 5.5 career sacks would indicate, but his value is as a run stuffer. The Giants need a defensive tackle to rotate with Jonathan Hankins and Jay Bromley, and Siliga fits the bill nicely. Siliga has played for Denver, Seattle, and New England in his four year NFL career.

Vince Wilfork, 33, 6’2″, 325, 12th season, New England: Siliga’s line mate, Wilford was waived in a cap cutting move but still has value as a run stuffer. Coming off an Achilles tendon tear in 2013, Wilfork returned and played well for the Super Bowl champion Patriots. His fitting under the Giants salary cap would come down to a simple question, would Wilfork, who has shown little willingness to flex on salary in the past, play for the veteran minimum? If not, there are a multitude of other run stuffers on the market.

A name that is brought up frequently is B.J. Raji, the former Packers who missed 2014 with a torn biceps. Prior to 2014, Raji was a descending player who will not be worth the Giants pursuing. There are younger options with a bigger upside much more worthy of investments of coach’s time and Giants salary cap dollars.

Siliga is one of the better remaining, bargain, options.

Siliga is one of the better remaining, bargain, options.

With a lot of players left in what’s becoming a buyer’s market, Johnson would boost the Giants defense considerably. Ellis is the preferred second level player of choice, followed by Siliga, Mosley, and old friend Cofield. With the exception of Cofield, who struggled defending the run in Washington, any of these players would boost the Giants run defense, an area still in desperate need of attention. Returning to a 4-3 would help Cofield’s run defending prowess, which was considerable in his first stint with the Giants, assuming he checks out healthy following his hip surgery

Offensive Line Options:

The offensive line is lacking the volume of options in free agency their counterparts on defense offer, making it more likely that help will come in the draft rather than through the marketplace. Only one player remains from the preview series, with most already signed, and former Titan Michael Roos retiring. The pickings were slim to begin with and the leftover bones are bare. Giants360 boiled them up, and tried to make a tasty broth for your enjoyment.

The lone holdover:

Mike Pollak, G, 6’4″, 299 lbs, 8th season, Cincinnati: Pollak has played for the Colts, Panthers, and Bengals already in his NFL career, giving him young journeyman status. The 41 game starter (in 58 career games), is a solid pass and run blocker who will be available to a reasonable salary million per season. He would be able to take over the right guard position for the Giants, leaving Pugh to play right tackle.

There are four players that boiled to the surface of the broth, but each has a flaw that shows why he’s still on the market. With better coaching and technique, one might turned into a strong, dominant NFL lineman. Or not.

Barksdale has been inconsistent in pass protection

Barksdale has been inconsistent in pass protection

Joe Barksdale, 26, 6’5″, 313 lbs, 5th season, St. Louis: An improving run blocker, Barksdale’s pass blocking has been inconsistent. He’s coming off a year in which he struggled, but was a good pass protector in 2013. A starter of all 16 games for the Rams in 2014, Barksdale has 31 career starts, all at right tackle, and if his technique is refined, could challenge Justin Pugh and push him inside to guard.

Anthony Collins, 6’6″, 308 lbs, 8th season, Tampa Bay: Collins is not as accomplished a run blocker, but similar to Barksdale, struggled to pass protect in 2014 after a promising 2013 effort. He suffered a foot injury in 2014 that cost him 6 games, but he started the other 10, and has 25 career starts, some at both tackle spots. His resume reads like a swing tackle, the spot the Giants filled with Newhouse, making Collins an unlikely addition to to the team.

Brian De La Puenta, C/G, 6’3″, 306 lbs, 5th season, Chicago: Mostly a center, De La Puenta played some guard for the Bears, making him on of the better interior line options remaining on the free agent market. He is an outstanding run blocker and an average pass protector with 50 career starts. He missed 8 games in 2014 with an ankle injury, but has otherwise been healthy, and given the shrinking market for veterans, might consider a one year “Prove it” deal to compete for a starting interior line job with the Giants.

Wisniewski played left guard early in his career.

Wisniewski played left guard early in his career.

Stefan Wisniewski, C/G, 6’3″, 295 lbs, 5th season, Oakland: Listed as a guard because he played left guard during his rookie season of 2011, Wisniewski is mostly considered a center. He is not as accomplished a run blocker as De La Puenta, and is inconsistent in his pass protection, perhaps why Oakland let him leave in free agency. Because he played left guard, and Geoff Schwartz and Weston Richburg both appeared to have some difficulty adapting to that side of the line, Wisniewski would provide an option if those struggles continue. His ability to play more than one position would also appeal to the Giants coaches, as would his 61 career starts.

Short one starting offensive lineman, the Giants have a move to make. My spider sense is tingling and telling me it will be filled with pick 9 on he evening of April 30th, but the spider that bit me wasn’t radioactive, just a nasty SOB, making my spider senses less accurate that Peter Parker’s. Filling in the roster with some lower cost players will give Jerry Reese the flexibility to pluck another Beckham like player in the first round and catapult the Giants into the next stratosphere of competition. That sounds a whole lot more inviting that simply filling a need with such a high draft pick.

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