Free-agency preview: Giants

Resigning WR Victor Cruz is a top priority for the Giants. (AP)
Resigning WR Victor Cruz is a top priority for the Giants. (AP)

Team overview: This defense made history in 2012.

After discombobulating Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants gave up a franchise-record 6,134 yards and missed the playoffs. Their 383.4 yards allowed per game ranked 31st, ahead of only the Saints. New York hadn’t finished second-to-last in 46 years. New York allowed 13 passes of 40-plus yards, second-most in the NFL, and gave up 4.6 yards per carry (27th).

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, safety Stevie Brown and corner Prince Amukamara were among the few bright spots. Now the overhaul is under way. The Giants released linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Chris Canty, in addition to running back Ahmad Bradshaw .

Corner Corey Webster could be next. He’s set to make $7 million after giving up 988 yards in coverage (third-most in NFL) and eight touchdowns (second-most), according to Pro Football Focus.

With only $4 million in cap room, the Giants have more work to do if they want to upgrade this defense. Extending Eli Manning could bring some cap relief.

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What the depth chart tells you: Based on their production and the lack of adequate backups, left guard Kevin Boothe and wideout Victor Cruz are top priorities. Boothe will be an unrestricted free agent if the Giants don’t lock him up first. Cruz would be a restricted free agent, meaning the Giants can keep him with a tender.

The Giants might be willing to let tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Kenny Phillips leave because they’re confident in their replacements. Tight end Adrien Robinson, the team’s fourth-round pick last year, “flashed a lot of good things at practice,” GM Jerry Reese said. “I just think he needs to get out there and play.”

New York must upgrade at corner, defensive line and linebacker.

Ideal free agency and draft strategy: At No. 19 overall, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson surely would improve the run defense. So would free-agent Cullen Jenkins, who visited the Giants.

The team should retain Boothe before he hits the open market. In free agency, target corners like Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox, and linebacker Thomas Howard.

The Giants shouldn’t waste precious resources on a running back; David Wilson and Andre Brown are more than capable.

What will happen: The Giants spent big to keep left tackle Will Beatty, Manning’s blindside protector. Now they’ll focus on retaining Boothe and Cruz and looking for linebacker and secondary help.

With their cap constraints, the Giants won’t make a big free-agency splash. But with an offense that should return mostly intact after ranking sixth in scoring (26.8), they don't need to.

-- By Larry Hartstein

Click on the dropdown above to find previews for all 32 teams as we head into free agency.


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