With Barber gone, Giants show interest in McGahee

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills are using part of their time here at the NFL scouting combine this weekend to apprise teams that starting tailback Willis McGahee is available via trade, and it appears they have attracted the interest of at least one potential suitor.

Jerry Reese, the first-year general manager of the New York Giants, acknowledged Saturday morning that his team has some interest in McGahee, a four-year veteran who has twice posted 1,000-yard seasons.

"There is some talk about Willis out there," Reese said. "We'll investigate Willis. We'll investigate everybody out there with trade talks. We'll leave no stones unturned."

The Giants are seeking to bolster a tailback depth chart thinned by the retirement of star Tiki Barber, and where two-year veteran Brandon Jacobs is now the nominal starter. The Giants feel Jacobs has a strong upside, but Barber's former backup has logged just 134 carries in two seasons.

Jacobs carried 96 times for 423 yards in 2006, but he posted double-digit rushing attempts in only three games and will have to demonstrate in camp that he is able to assume the workhorse load that Barber once shouldered. The ideal situation, Reese allowed, would be for Jacobs to win the starting job and for the team to have a complementary back, maybe a veteran, on hand as well.

"We're looking for Brandon to probably carry the ball 20 times and for another running back [to carry] 15 times," Reese said. "[Jacobs] will carry the maximum amount of the load for us, I'm assuming, if everything goes like we expect it to."

In truth, though, McGahee is a more accomplished back than Jacobs, and he certainly would compete hard for the No. 1 job if the Giants acquired him. It is not believed that there have been any substantive trade discussions yet between the Giants and the Bills. But officials from other teams confirmed that the Bills are actively pursuing trade partners for McGahee, the team's first-round choice in the 2003 draft.

Buffalo officials seem to have soured on McGahee, who has not asked to be traded, but who is entering the final year of his contract in 2007. McGahee could depart as a free agent after the 2007 season and the Bills, wary of the possibility he could exit with them getting nothing in return, have taken a active stance in trying to find him a new home.

It is not known if any other teams have indicated an interest in McGahee. The former University of Miami standout has appeared in 46 games, including 40 starts, and carried 868 times for 3,365 yards and 24 touchdowns.

McGahee, 25, missed his entire rookie campaign as he recovered from the catastrophic knee injury that ended his college career, then rushed for over 1,000 yards each in 2004 and 2005, before running for 990 yards last season.

In an unrelated move, the Giants reached agreement with two-year veteran linebacker Chase Blackburn on a four-year, $3.5 million contract. Blackburn is expected to vie for a starting job in the Giants' revamped linebacker corps in 2007.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.