Linebacker Jon Beason got a lot of credit for his role in the New York Giants' in-season defensive turnaround in 2013. But on Wednesday, he got something even better than credit -- he got a new contract. The Giants and Beason have agreed on a deal that will keep the free-agent linebacker with the team. And while it's a bit out of character for the Giants to make linebacker a priority, this was an important move for them to make.
First of all, the extent to which the Giants have overlooked the linebacker position in recent years has been a detriment, and they've ignored the extent to which it's hurt them. It's fine to prioritize the pass rush and the secondary in this day and age, but to leave linebacker as barren as it was prior to the Beason trade last year is pure negligence. I'm sure every Giants fan can recall games in 2010, 2011 and 2012 where a familiar division opponent like the Eagles picked them apart over the middle with short stuff. It's how Tony Romo and the Cowboys took them apart in Week 1 in Dallas just this past year.
Beason's arrival in exchange for the low, low price of a seventh-round draft pick at the end of September changed things. Not only did he play well, showing surprising sideline-to-sideline speed and energy for a guy who'd had leg injuries and tumbled down the Panthers' depth chart, but he also eagerly and effectively assumed the role of defensive leader. The Giants instantly installed him as the middle linebacker and gave him the responsibility for relaying the defensive calls on the field. They needed someone in the middle of the field who could get and keep everyone organized, and Beason offered that to an extentDan Connor and Mark Herzlich could not. The players believed in him and respected him, and the way he played and led justified it.
So you can argue that Beason's performance is what convinced the Giants to finally spend for a linebacker for a change. I don't know what they spent yet. I know they thought they could sign him for something in the $3 million or $4 million per year range. I know there were other teams interested, and Beason was holding that over the Giants' heads in negotiations as recently as Wednesday morning, so it's possible they ended up spending a bit more than they projected. But I'm sure it's not a contract that will break the bank, given where the market is for inside linebackers league-wide. And considering they're surely losing Terrell Thomas and possibly defensive co-captain Justin Tuck from the leadership ranks of that defense -- and defensive co-captain Antrel Rolle is only signed for one more year -- Beason has value to the Giants that goes beyond any stats he might put in the box score.