Before the 2012 season, New York Giants' Michael Boley was being heralded as the most complete linebacker on the roster, His ability to cover tight ends down the field, as well as provide run support made him an invaluable resource to Big Blue's 2011 Super Bowl victory. However, just like the Giants 2012 campaign, Boley's season did not go as planned. After battling nagging injuries for much of the year, the eighth year veteran saw significantly reduced playing time in the final three games of the season.
Boley will enter the final year of his contract in 2013 at 31 years old. He's owed $4.25 million, which quite frankly, is not a bad price for a versatile weak-side linebacker. If the team believes Boley's shortcomings were due to something other than a declining skill-set, then this is less of a debate than many are making it out to be. However, with the Giants tight salary cap situation, the team may very well look to younger options to fill Boley's role on defense next season.
Spencer Paysinger has been a player that the Giants have liked ever since they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon two years ago. When Boley was on the sidelines during the stretch run of the 2012 season, Paysinger benefited most in terms of increased playing time. He has good size, above average athleticism and the ability to make tackles in the open field. It's unclear whether Paysinger's ready to take on full-time linebacker duties, but his emergence could allow the Giants to cut Boley loose and wipe out nearly their entire salary cap deficit in one shot.
Jacquian Williams is another second year player who many thought would come out and have a strong 2012 campaign. However, he was plagued by a multitude of injuries that never allowed him to become a productive player on the defense. That said, Williams has experience starting on defense and has shown the athleticism to accomplish anything the coaching staff could ask of him. He has excellent size and his elite speed give him incredible range. He needs to bulk up a little bit over the offseason, but Williams is an athletic specimen that has the ability to develop into a mainstay on the Giants defense.
The upcoming NFL draft is also a possible method in which the Giants can find a replacement for Boley. With the 19th pick, it's highly unlikely the team is able to acquire the likes of Jarvis Jones, or even Manti Te'o. However, the Giants have shown a propensity for finding value in the mid-rounds of the draft and even with undrafted free agents. Big Blue doesn't need to swipe a superstar linebacker prospect from the top of the draft board, they just need to find someone that fits their scheme and can play as part of a cohesive unit.
From the outside, it appears as if it makes more sense to let Boley walk and save some salary cap room. There's a good chance he's on the downside of his career and he's coming off a season in which he wore down during the stretch run. However, it's also possible that we are placing too much emphasis on his performance during the final three games of 2012. For most of Boley's career with the Giants, he's been the most talented and productive linebacker on the roster. Given the lack of depth the team has at the position right now, are they really going to get rid of a guy who is capable of being the best linebacker on the team?
It's a tough question to answer, but one that Jerry Reese is going to have to face as the offseason progresses. However, Giants 101 wants to hear what you, the readers, have to say about Michael Boley's future with the team. Let us know in the comments section below.
Photo Credit: Mike Gannon
Also…Football, Jacquian Williams, Jerry Reese, Michael Boley, New York, New York Giants, NFL, NFL Draft, Spencer Paysinger, Super Bowl