<
>

Giants may still be making a kicking change before the start of the season

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before the final roster is set, a New York Giants kicker may still get the boot. It’s just not Josh Brown who is likely to be swapped out for a better, less controversial option.

Brown is suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league’s conduct policy. The ban stems from a domestic violence arrest in May 2015, and he will miss the season opener Sept. 11 on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.

Owner John Mara backed Brown on Wednesday despite the ugly allegations by the kicker's ex-wife becoming public over the past week. Mara confirmed the decision to keep Brown occurred in April -- when he was re-signed to a two-year, $4 million deal -- and nothing that occurred over the past week has altered his roster status.

“It is going to be determined on the field,” said Mara.

Kicker Randy Bullock is his new competition. He was signed this week as a potential replacement after kicking for the Texans and Jets last season.

Bullock is the contingency plan if there is an unexpected turn in the Brown case, but he’s way more likely than Brown to never kick for the Giants this season. The reasons are mulit-layered.

Bullock was unemployed midway through the summer and is a heavy underdog to unseat a Pro Bowl kicker. Bullock is also a vested veteran and can therefore collect a one-time termination pay if he’s cut after Week 1.

The Giants would be forced to pay Bullock’s entire 2016 salary of $675,000 if he kicks for one game. In comparison, the loser of the Eagles’ kicking competition -- Cody Parkey or Caleb Sturgis -- would cost $35K or $40K for one weeks' work because they are not yet eligible for termination pay.

Bullock would collect quite a substantial paycheck for what could amount to a few extra points. It’s almost twice what veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will pocket for his likely more substantial efforts against the Cowboys. It’s more than star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will collect the first eight weeks combined.

The likelihood is that the Giants will look hard at the waiver wire for a young but experienced kicker after final cuts on Sept. 3. There they can find a financially reasonable -- and possibly better -- option than a kicker who wasn’t on any roster in mid-August.

There will be options at the Giants' disposal. There are currently 49 kickers on NFL rosters. Only 32 will have jobs come Week 1. It’s feasible that the Giants believe one of the 16 kickers released by other teams is a better option than Bullock.

“I think with everyone up until the final cuts, and after the final cuts, you're going to scout the waiver wire and you're going to see who the 53 best players for this team are at whatever position,” Giants special teams coach Tom Quinn said. “You try and make yourself the best possible you can be. It’s always open for competition.”

Bullock, 26, does have an opportunity to beat out Brown. But you can't like his chances. He'd better impress quickly.

The regular season begins for the Giants in 17 days. Final cuts are in nine days. It almost seems as if Bullock faces an improbable task against Brown, who still has the team’s support and made a career-best 94 percent of his kicks last season.

Bullock was cut by the Texans after missing a pair of extra points and a field goal in three games last year. He's still under the impression he has a legitimate chance.

“They really didn’t get into specifics of the situation," said Bullock, who made all four of his field-goal attempts during Wednesday’s practice. "They told me that I am here to compete and the best guy would stick around. That is the way that I am taking it, and it doesn’t affect my preparation, regardless.”

Don’t be fooled, though. The Giants will be looking elsewhere for kicking options, and they might just find an equal or better option for Week 1 at a greatly reduced price.