Giants Facing Tough Decisions in Free Agency

Jim Mancari , Contributor

For the second straight year, the Giants may find themselves in a position in which the salary cap will be a major hindrance in trying to improve the roster.

Of course, the team had many of the pieces this year it needed for success but just lacked the consistency needed for a sustained run.

There are some intriguing free agents out there that could seriously help the Giants retool heading into 2013. But whether or not they will fit into the Giants’ price range remains to be seen.

Big Blue will certainly inquire about available players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Here are some free agents the Giants may pursue:

Questions surround Ahmad Bradshaw this offseason, so the Giants may look to bring in a free agent running back, even if the team decides to bring back Andre Brown coming off a broken fibula.

David Wilson took significant strides late in the season, but to feature him as the primary back next year might be a little premature. He’ll likely see an increased workload, but the Giants will need a power back to pair with him.

LeGarrette Blount, Chris Ivory, Jonathan Dwyer and Shonn Greene could all be possible options. These are hard runners who can capitalize on short yardage situations.

Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson are also available, but their price tags may be out of the Giants’ range. Plus Wilson has the potential to develop into a player like Bush.

Dwyer would be an interesting choice, but he’ll likely get plenty of consideration as a primary back somewhere, mainly from his current team, Pittsburgh. He’s also a restricted free agent, so the Steelers can match any offer he receives.

Though a few high-profile wide receivers like Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and Wes Welker are free agents, don’t expect the Giants to spend time exploring those options.

They have their own guy, Victor Cruz, that they need to re-sign, and when Hakeem Nicks is healthy, the Giants have a top-notch receiving core. The team may look to bring in a steady third option to compete with Rueben Randle for playing time. Maybe even bringing back Domenik Hixon is the best option there.

Along the offensive line, the Giants have a decision to make. Will Beatty is a free agent, but there are a few upgrades available. But naturally, those upgrades come with hefty price tags.

Jake Long and Ryan Clady will garner big time attention and will likely seek deals with annual salaries near $10 million. That sort of contract would severely limit what the Giants can do in other areas, so Beatty then becomes that much more attractive to bring back. Beatty is a steady option, but when guys like Long and Clady are available, most teams inquire. Expect to hear plenty though about improving the offensive line.

On defense, the Giants appear set along the defensive line pending the future of Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, one of which is not likely to return.

But the Giants may be seeking an upgrade at linebacker. Chase Blackburn is a great story, but the Giants need consistent production. Not that Blackburn was a total liability, but Big Blue needs a game-changer in the middle.

Rey Maualuga is that game-changer. But the Bengals want him to stay and will likely hand over a big contract to lock him up.

Brian Urlacher was once an impact player at middle linebacker, but he’s way past his prime and the Giants should stay away. Other options include Connor Barwin, Anthony Spencer and Manny Lawson.

Depending on what the Giants decide to do with Corey Webster, the team may have a need at cornerback. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be available and appears to be the top corner on the free agent market.

He’s had an inconsistent career and has been questioned about his focus. Unless the Giants really see the need to bring in experience, there are better options than Rodgers-Cromartie.

Sam Shields of the Packers is a restricted free agent, so Green Bay will be able to match any offer he’s given. He’s coming off a year plagued by injury, but that may drive his price tag down. But if so, a reunion with Green Bay is likely.

So in addition to exploring the available free agents, the Giants will also have to make decisions about their own personnel hitting the free agent market.

Between those guys and the available guys from other teams plus potentially improving the team through the NFL Draft, Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese will be a busy man the next few weeks.

Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.