The New York Post corralled Justin Tuck at a promotional event Thursday, and Tuck was saying things about free agency that didn't sound much like the things he was saying about it a month ago. Basically, Tuck said he's decided to test the market when it opens March 8 and not sign with the Giants before then:
"I will see what the market is for me," Tuck said during a promotional appearance for MetLife. "I've never been in this situation before, and it's a great opportunity for myself. I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't see what the market is, and I will."
When Tuck spoke during the season of his pending free agency, he routinely said he wanted to be back with the Giants. And when the season ended, Tuck's strong finish and 11 sacks made it appear likely that the team would grant him his wish. But based on the comments Tuck is making now, it appears he's not hearing what he'd hoped to hear from the Giants with regard to contract terms. And I think it's fair to read these comments and be a little bit more pessimistic about Tuck's chances to return.
The Giants have a lot of needs and a lot of free agents. Personally, as I've written more than once, I'd consider the re-signing of defensive tackle Linval Joseph a higher priority than the re-signing of Tuck. The Giants will have a decision to make on Tuck's fellow (and much younger) defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in a year. And while they never want to get too thin at that defensive end spot, they could be looking to get younger there and working this offseason on a long-range rebuild of their pass rush. Damontre Moore, their third-round pick in 2013, is in line for more playing time in 2014 as it is, and the Giants could use the draft and/or free agency to find a short-term and long-term replacement for Tuck in that rotation.
The way the Giants generally operate with their own free agents is that they assign each of them a price they feel is appropriate, and if the player's demands far exceed that price, they basically wish him well and go get someone else. So it's possible that they're thinking about a number for Tuck -- be it salary, years or both -- that is well short of what he believes he's worth. And if that's the case, he's right to go out on the open market and see whether someone else is willing to offer more. If that happens, he's likely to leave. If it doesn't, he could always go back to the Giants at their number, provided they haven't moved on with other plans in the meantime.
It's a game the Giants have played with some of their more accomplished and venerable players, so there's no reason to think Tuck will be immune to it. What's interesting is that he sounds willing to play it too, where he never did sound that way before.