One of the toughest decisions that an NFL front office has to make is whether or not to re-sign its own players once their contracts expire. This offseason, the New York Giants faced that very dilemma regarding two of their high-profile players. Both Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck are set to hit the free agent market if the team doesn't extend their deals prior to March 11.
According to general manager Jerry Reese, who spoke at the NFL scouting combine on Saturday, the Giants intend to let both players hit the open market this March.
For Nicks, at least, the decision should have been easy. The Giants can easily replace Nicks' production with a free agent, a draft pick, or with players already inside the organization. Two years ago, Nicks looked like a budding star with 1,192 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in the 2011 campaign. Since then, however, the veteran wide receiver has been hampered by injuries. In the past two seasons, Nicks has in total gained just1,588 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Even without adding a player from the draft or free agency, the Giants appear to have the makings of an effective wide receiving corps in 2014. Victor Cruz's stats didn't match up to what he did in his first two NFL seasons, but he still had a good season considering the struggles that quarterback Eli Manning went through. Add to that the breakout campaign of a 22-year-old Rueben Randle and the late season heroics of Jerrel Jernigan, and you have the makings of a scary passing attack.
For Tuck, the decision was probably tougher for the New York front office given the defensive end's resurgence in 2013. I think part of the reason why the team is letting one of its co-captains test free agency is that the Giants trust Tuck to give them a chance to best any offer he receives.
A lot of that trust comes from Tuck having won two Super Bowl titles with the Giants and being the longest tenured player on the team other than Manning. Even if Tuck gets a big offer from a rival team, his familiarity and legacy with the Giants may be enough to convince him to take less money to stay with New York.
Tuck's advanced age (he turns 31 next month) and lack of production in 2011 and 2012 make him a risky acquisition for any prospective buyer. By letting him hit free agency, the Giants are saying that they'd rather fight with other teams for a fair deal than risk overpaying Tuck now.
There's always the chance that another team blows Tuck away with an offer, but the Giants don't need to be overpaying a past-his-prime player with so many other needs on the team. Watching their defensive leader walk away won't be easy for the Giants, but it may be a necessary sacrifice when it comes to getting the team back into the playoffs.