Jerry Reese will be making some important changes to the New York Giants' roster following a second consecutive 9-7 season. The extent of these imminent personnel moves, however, remains a large mystery.
With limited salary cap space (around $2.2 million) and 23 free agents, Reese and his cohorts must be creative this offseason. This process starts by restructuring the contracts of certain players. Based on their performances in 2012, Corey Webster and David Diehl are the prohibitive favorites to see pay cuts in 2013.
There are several key decisions on the horizon for the Giants. Here's a look at who must stay, and who must go for Big Blue in 2013.
DE Osi Umenyiora
All signs point to Osi Umenyiora's departure this offseason. After 10 successful seasons with the Giants, it will be mutually beneficial for both sides to part ways. Osi will deservedly get a fresh start in a new city, and the Giants can attempt to revitalize their pass rush.
OT David Diehl (under contract)
After struggling to return to form following a midseason knee injury, the Giants may be forced to release another fixture of their offensive line. If David Diehl refuses to take a massive pay cut from his $4 million salary, expect Reese to cut him.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (under contract)
The six-year veteran is coming off his second career 1,000-yard season. That figure is impressive when you examine the litany of foot problems Ahmad Bradshaw has had in recent years. This will undoubtedly be a contentious topic in the Giants' front office.
Bradshaw has been a warrior for this organization, but with close to $8 million owed to him in the next two years, it may be time for change.
K Lawrence Tynes
Lawrence Tynes went 1-of-3 from 50-plus yards this season. This statistic is alarming because he did not have the leg strength to make those kicks. Will the Giants value a reliable kicker from within 40 yards, or a player who gives them the luxury of scoring from long distance?
TE Martellus Bennett
While his numbers are nothing to sneeze at, Martellus Bennett is as mercurial as it gets on the field. This move may be unpopular, but tight end is not a position the Giants should spend large sums of money on. After all, we've seen the likes of Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss thrive with Eli Manning.
WR Ramses Barden
Ramses Barden's remarkable nine-catch, 138-yard performance in Week 3 against Carolina won't be enough to convince Reese to bring him back. The emergence of Rueben Randle makes the former third-round pick a surplus to requirements.
LB Chase Blackburn
Chase Blackburn's departure is contingent upon New York finding a serviceable replacement at middle linebacker. Mark Herzlich is not the answer, which means New York may be stuck retaining Blackburn's services before training camp.
DT Rocky Bernard/Shaun Rodgers
The Giants will reluctantly give Marvin Austin more reps at defensive tackle in an effort to improve their gaping run defense.
RB Ryan Torain/Kregg Lumpkin
Kregg Lumpkin's ability to block on third downs may earn him a camp invite, but the Giants will likely stick with only three running backs on game days.
WR Victor Cruz
Contract talks between Victor Cruz and the Giants during the season never amounted to a long-term deal. After a sterling season, both on and most admirably off the field, it's impossible to imagine Reese allowing a hometown product of Cruz's caliber to walk away.
S Kenny Phillips
There will be some inevitable gamesmanship coming from the Giants' front office regarding Kenny Phillips' free agency. Make no mistake about it, this player is worth his weight in gold. Phillips is a supremely talented safety who negates the big play and is effective against the run.
In the seven games No. 21 was available, New York allowed 16.85 points per game. Without Phillips, the Giants surrendered 25.1. If the Giants are coy regarding Phillips, it's because they don't want the 31 other teams to know how much they value him.
T Will Beatty
Will Beatty should receive a lucrative long-term contract to protect Eli Manning's blind side. You infrequently heard Beatty's name being called in 2012, which could only mean two things. He rarely was penalized and he kept Manning upright.
G Kevin Boothe
The Giants should be praised for the development of Kevin Boothe and Will Beatty. In the past two seasons we've seen a stark reversal in the discipline and reliability both these players exhibit.
RB Andre Brown
Andre Brown should be a bargain after he suffered a broken leg in Week 12. If the Giants are set to release Ahmad Bradshaw, a tandem of David Wilson and Brown could be formidable.
S Stevie Brown
Perry Fewell has typically compensated for the lack of a solid linebacking corps by playing three safeties on defense. Stevie Brown's aggressive style of play propelled him to eight interceptions in 2012. It also hurt the Giants, who ranked 30th in allowing pass plays of 40-plus yards.
LB Keith Rivers
At the very least, Keith Rivers has shown he can be a reliable backup for New York. His history of injuries are a concern, but the Giants have limited options at the linebacker position.
TE Bear Pascoe
If the Giants part ways with Martellus Bennett, they'll likely replace him with two players; One who can catch, and one who can block. With a name like Bear, it's obvious this player is the latter.
T Sean Locklear
Sean Locklear was a pleasant surprise at the right tackle position in 2012. The gruesome knee injury he suffered in Week 13 may cause the Giants to be reluctant, but he will be affordable.
WR Domenik Hixon
Jerry Reese will have to choose wisely between Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon this offseason. Hixon should get the nod because of his ability to return punts for Big Blue.
Other Notable Free Agents
QB David Carr, CB Justin Tryon, TE Travis Beckum, CB Brian Witherspoon
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