Many New York Giants fans expressed jubilation yesterday when word came out that defensive end Osi Umenyiora had signed a new restructured contract with the team. However, the details of the contract only confirmed what many fans have long suspected: that this will be Osi's final season with Big Blue.
Instead of extending Umenyiora's deal, General Manager Jerry Reese merely gave the star defensive end a considerable amount of "hush money" to entice him to play out the final year of his current contract without causing any more controversy. Although many fans would love to see their beloved Umenyiora finish his career with the New York Giants , this season may very well be a farewell tour for the 10-year veteran. Below, we will look at why the New York Giants will most likely cut ties with Osi after this season.
Age and Injury Concerns – Osi Umenyiora will turn 31 this season, and with his previous injury history, it seems likely that we will see a drop in his production in the near future. Osi missed the entire 2008 season with a torn meniscus in his knee, and he missed seven games last year with knee and ankle injuries. It would not be prudent to give significant money to a player that is not only entering the latter stages of his career, but also has a considerable history of serious injury. Although Osi Umenyiora is still capable of being a good player in the NFL, it is safe to say that his best days are behind him. Giving a raise to a player who will only produce less as the contract goes on does not make any sense from the Giants' standpoint.
New York Giants Depth at Defensive Line – Even if the New York Giants could overlook Osi Umenyiora's age and injury concerns, the incredible depth of the defensive line is another reason to let the star defensive end walk at the end of the season. With Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, and Marvin Austin, the Giants would still have considerable depth at defensive line even without Osi on the roster. Yesterday when addressing Osi Umenyiora's contract situation, New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle stated:
"We have a very, very good defensive line without Osi, without a doubt. But with Osi in that lineup we have an outstanding defensive line."
While Rolle certainly was not trying to imply that Umenyiora is expendable, he acknowledged that the Giants still have an extremely talented defensive line without him. Osi Umenyiora is the third defensive end on the depth chart and is mainly used as a pass rushing specialist. He does not play every down and has never been considered a run stopper. It would be uncharacteristic of General Manger Jerry Reese to give a significant contract to a non-starter and a player who is more of a luxury than a necessity.
Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul Will Soon Need New Contracts – Both Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul have outplayed their current contracts and will be hitting the free agent market in two and three years respectively. However, Jerry Reese may be inclined to lock up his dynamic defensive end duo before they ever get to free agency. That being said, it is going to take a considerable amount of money to make that happen.
It would not be a stretch of the imagination for the Giants to have close to $20-$25 million per year locked up in their two star pass rushers in the foreseeable future. Although Osi Umenyiora is reported to be seeking top-5 defensive end money, his market value can better be measured by the contract that Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts signed this offseason at 4 years/ $36 million. Both Umenyiora and Mathis have been in the league the same amount of time, both have had the same amount of sacks over the past two seasons, and neither have ever been the premier pass rusher on their respective teams. Granted, Mathis had five more games to reach the same number of sacks as Umenyiora. However, the Colts often played from behind last year, causing opposing teams to pass less, and therefore giving Mathis less opportunities to rush the passer. Furthermore, Mathis is much better against the run and is considered to be more of an every down defensive end than Umenyiora. He has a cleaner bill of health than does Osi; so Osi will most likely take a little less than the $36 million Mathis got.
If the Giants want to keep both Tuck and Pierre-Paul for the foreseeable future, signing Osi Umenyiora to a long term contract anywhere near what Robert Mathis received would seriously jeopardize those efforts. The Giants can only have so much money tied up at one position, no matter how important it is, before it is time to seek younger and cheaper alternatives to fill the depth chart. Also, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will surely both want number one receiver money in the near future, so paying your third best defensive end any serious amount of money is not an option if Jerry Reese wants to keep the team's young core intact.
Osi Umenyiora has been an outstanding player for the New York Giants ever since he came into the league in 2003. Since that time, he has won two Super Bowl's, made two Pro Bowls, and has garnered the respect and admiration of every New York Giants' fan who has had the privilege to watch him play. Unfortunately, the NFL is a business, and as Antrel Rolle eloquently pointed out yesterday "business is business and sometimes business can get a little sticky." The Giants are coming to an eventual crossroads, where they are going to have to pay their core of young players. As much as all parties involved would love for Osi Umenyiora to finish his career with Big Blue, the business side of the NFL will most likely preclude that from happening.
At some point while watching Osi Umenyiora play this year, take a second to think about all he has meant to the entire New York Giants organization. He has been part of the core of Big Blue through several ups and downs, and no matter what he has always left his heart out on the field attempting to bring home a victory for the New York Giants. However, understand that this is likely that last harrah for number 72 in a New York Giants uniform.
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