Should they stay or should they go now? Giants need to evaluate defense

Earlier today, the New York Daily News outlined a number of players the Giants need to make decisions about this offseason.

On the defensive side of the ball, there a couple of household names in question. Among them: defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, linebacker Chase Blackburn, safety Stevie Brown, safety Kenny Phillips and linebacker Keith Rivers.

In addition, the NYDN suggested cornerback Corey Webster, who has slumped all season long, to take a pay cut. Webster is in the fifth year of a 6-year, $45.5 million contract.

Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Michael Boley are also free agents in 2014.

Who needs to go?

If Week 16 was any indication of Webster’s next few years in the league, New York should consider looking in another direction.

With cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley, perhaps the Giants should save the $7 million they owe him in ’13 and cut him — unless he’d be willing to restructure his deal at a reduced rate.

Bye, bye, Blackburn

Blackburn has been more than expected at the linebacker position, but he is not the athletic playmaker style of backer that NFL defenses now feature.

I don’t know if Mark Herzlich is the future at middle linebacker, but perhaps the Draft is the answer. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o likely won’t be around when New York is on the clock, but perhaps another top prospect — a Alec Ogletree from Georgia or a Kevin Minter from LSI, who are No. 2 and 3 at the position, according to ESPN Scouts, Inc.

Pressure on the defensive line

Earlier this week, Umenyiora pretty much conceded he will not be a New York Giant in 2013, which begs the question of whether or not his teammate, Tuck, will join him.

Tuck, who will turn 30 next season, and is due $4.5 million in salary.

Should Umenyiora go, it seems necessary to retain Tuck, not only to see if he can continue to produce on the field but provide a sense of continuity and veteran leadership in the locker room.

Safety valve

Both Brown and Phillips are on the hook this season. Phillips has missed most of the year due to a lingering knee injury, while Brown has emerged as a playmaker in his absence.

Brown leads the Giants with 7 interceptions and ranks fourth on the team with 50 tackles.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where New York pays both of these safeties to bolster the secondary, so you would have to expect Phillips — who will likely command a larger sum of cash on the free-agent market — to be the one walking away.

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