I recently gave my report card for the Giants 2011 season position-by-position. But because there was only so much space to discuss each position, I wanted to go more in-depth on each position and spin it forward to next season.
Today is the final installment as we look at the front office and GM Jerry Reese.
This grade comes for many reasons but mostly because the Giants won the Super Bowl and the roster that won it all was put together by Reese and his staff.
It certainly was not the roster Reese probably envisioned at the start of camp when he had hoped to bring back Steve Smith and Kevin Boss only to let them walk in free agency for bigger pay days. Barry Cofield also left for a bigger contract to the Redskins in free agency as well. Reese was criticized heavily for letting Boss and Smith get away, releasing Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert and not making any big splashes in free agency (remember the Giants’ meeting with Plaxico Burress?) while the Eagles made move after move.
But as it turned out, Reese made plenty of right moves. O’Hara and Seubert didn’t play this past season. Smith never fit in with the Eagles and really may not have been fully recovered from knee surgery. And Reese was right about young players emerging with new opportunities. Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard emerged and Kevin Boothe, whom Reese said was a valuable re-signing, ended up being a key cog for the offensive line.
Reese re-signed Dave Tollefson and Deon Grant and both were contributors and very popular in the locker room. He stared down Osi Umenyiora in a contract dispute and the defensive end folded and came back to play under his contract.
His biggest free-agent signing, David Baas, had some ups and downs and the offensive line struggled to establish the run but he ended up as the starting center on a Super Bowl team.
His signing of Steve Weatherford was one of the biggest moves of the season for the team as the punter turned a weakness from the 2010 season into a strength.
Reese did lose several players to injury as Terrell Thomas, Brian Witherspoon, Bruce Johnson, Clint Sintim, Domenik Hixon and Jonathan Goff were among those that were lost for the season early.
His first four draft picks didn’t contribute a whole lot as first-round pick Prince Amukamara lost pretty much all of camp and most of his season to a broken foot before returning in the middle of the season. Second-round pick Marvin Austin also suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in the preseason.
But Reese’s sixth-round picks made contributions this season as linebackers Jacquian Williams, Greg Jones and Tyler Sash all saw significant time on special teams while also playing on defense at times. The speedy Williams turned out to be quite a find and a regular contributor who came up with the big strip in the NFC Championship Game.
Undrafted free agent rookies like Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger also saw time on special teams. Herzlich started two games before injuring his ankle. And Henry Hynoski got better at fullback as the season progressed.
Reese never did address the linebacker position the way fans wanted as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell largely went with three safeties for most of the season. But Reese did re-sign Chase Blackburn late in the season which proved to be a key move that helped the Giants during their Super Bowl run.
Reese still has areas he needs to improve on such as the return game which provided very little. The offensive line, particularly in the running game, must improve and the secondary also can use help and depth. Tight end is also a concern.
The GM has several tough decisions to make this offseason starting with the Giants’ cap space. They were at $9 million over the cap recently but the number is subject to change.
Reese has cap work to do and will have to restructure some deals, including Brandon Jacobs’ contract. He is due a $500,000 roster bonus later this month and will make a total of $4.9 million this season. Jacobs will have to take a pay cut to return.
There’s also the Umenyiora situation as the defensive end still wants a raise. He will earn slightly less than $4 million this season.
Reese has 21 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents and one exclusive rights free agent. He is trying to re-sign Hixon, Thomas, Goff, Weatherford among others.
The Giants, though, are excited about having their top two picks from last year’s draft (Amukamara and Austin) go into this season with a full offseason of work and coaching.
And he has the upcoming draft to add to the roster. But as far as his grade for last season, my grade is A+ for being right with Boss and Smith and making enough moves to build a Super Bowl championship roster.
Tell us what your grade for Reese would be and what you think he should do this offseason below.