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Quick Look at the Giants Free Agents

From NY Daily News:

David Carr has been re-signed and Brandon Jacobs has been franchised, leaving the Giants with not a whole lot to do between now and Feb. 27, when the unrestricted free-agent signing period begins. The fates of most of their UFAs have already been sealed, meaning their attention will be focused on who they can add once the signing period begins.

But before we move on to that, here’s a look at what they have and haven’t done with their own free agents, with a little insight — via various NFL and team sources — on what the Giants are thinking, and what’s happening (or, in most cases, what’s not happening):

Locked in

RB Brandon Jacobs and QB David Carr — Jacobs was slapped with the franchise tag which guaranteed him a one-year, $6.621 million tender. He hasn’t signed it yet as the two sides will revist talks on a long-term deal. Carr signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal.

Locked out

WR Amani ToomerK John Carney, and QB Anthony Wright — Toomer wasn’t in the Giants’ 2009 plans anyway, but he slammed the door on any potential return when he mouthed off during Super Bowl week about how underused he was. And in case you didn’t see it in Rich Cimini’s NFL column on Sunday, a source told him that the Giants “grew tired of” Toomer years ago. It’s kind of a sad ending to an impressive and long Giants career.

Carney, meanwhile, has been told he’s free to test free agency because the Giants don’t want to carry two kickers next year and plan to give the job back to Lawrence Tynes. And Wright was squeezed out when Carr signed, since Eli Manning, Carr and Andre’ Woodson will be the 1-2-3 QB team next year.

If the Price is Right

RB Derrick WardJames ButlerOL Grey Ruegamer, and CB R.W. McQuarters — Ward was reportedly scheduled to meet with the Giants last week, but his agent said that neither he nor his client had any plans to be in the New York area. That doesn’t mean they didn’t speak by phone, but clearly the franchising of Jacobs is a blow to Ward, if he wanted to return. He made it clear he wants a starting job, which can’t happen now. He’s also, a source said, looking for upwards of $4 million per year. It’s hard to believe the Giants will give him that much, especially since the coaches love Ahmad Bradshaw. But, if Ward checks out the market and can’t find what he’s looking for, don’t rule out a return at a bargain price.

Butler, meanwhile, didn’t sound happy at the end of the season that the Giants had made absolutely no effort to reach out to him on a long-term deal. He played on his $1.417 million tender last year, and with Kenny Phillips ready for a starting role the Giants aren’t expected to go much higher. His return may depend on his asking price, too, and on whether he finds a market for himself in free agency.

As for Ruegamer and McQuarters, the two 32 year olds both have value — Ruegamer for line depth and McQuarters as a punt returner and a guy who can play both corner and safety in a pinch. Veteran depth is an expensive luxury in a salary cap world, though. Ruegamer seemingly has the better shot at coming back if only because the Giants have more depth at corner than on the line. But both may have to play at or near the NFL minimum.

One and Done

DE Renaldo Wynn and Jerome McDougle — The two defensive ends didn’t contribute much, and now Osi Umenyiora is presumably coming back to join what should be a three-man end rotation with Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. Dave Tollefson (an exclusive rights free agent) figures to be the fourth. If there’s a fifth, it’ll come out of the draft.

Restricted Plans

CB Kevin Dockery and TE Darcy Johnson — Both are likely to be tendered, though it’s not clear how high the Giants are willing to go. Both were originally signed as undrafted free agents, which means the Giants would be due no compensation if they chose not to match whatever offers they receive unless they signed them at the “second-round tender” at least. The cost of that this year is $1.545 million. Even the low (no compensation) tender is $1.01 million. Since Dockery was, at times, the nickelback last year and figures to be the fourth corner now behind Terrell Thomas, I could see him getting the second-round tender. That’ll be tough to justify for Johnson, though, considering he’s the third tight end and the Giants want to find a better blocking tight end somewhere anyway.

The Salary cap

I have gotten many, many, many inquiries from you all about how much room the Giants will have under the $123 million salary cap. The truth is that an exact figure is impossible to pinpoint without knowing the details of every single contract and what the Giants’ plans are. A cap number is in a constantly fluid state, depending on bonuses, “likely to be earned” incentives, “unlikely to be earned incentives” and salary escalators — not all of which are often known. Also, there’s no way to know yet what plans the Giants have for restructuring contracts, which of their own UFAs they might sign before Feb. 27, or how high they’ll tender their RFAs. All of it factors in to the final number.

So I try to deal in ranges, and I’ve heard from NFL sources that the Giants have anywhere from $10-20 million in cap room. I realize that’s a huge range. Most people have put them in the $10-15 million range. However, that was before $6.621 million of that space went to Jacobs, and obviously before they tender their two RFAs. It was also before they saved about $4.25 million by cutting S Sammy Knight, CB Sam Madison, and RB Reuben Droughns.

Best guess, after the cuts and the Jacobs franchise tender, and after they tender their RFAs, they’ll probably be around $10-12 million. It’s enough to sign what they need. And if they choose to be big players in the market or trade for a high-priced receiver (or something) they have the ability to create more room. Remember, if they were to work out a long-term deal with Jacobs, his cap number for 2009 would almost certainly decrease. Same thing if they get around to working out a new deal for Eli Manning.

The bottom line is they are in decent enough cap shape, with the ability to find more room if necessary.

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