After disappointing season, Giants likely will be active in free-agent market

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese speaks

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese speaks to the media during training camp on July 27, 2013. Photo Credit: James Escher

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The Giants are not used to being big spenders in free agency. Their long-standing philosophy is to build through the draft.

Then again, they aren't used to coming off 7-9 seasons, either.

If they hope to nip the latter trend, they may have to break the first and cannonball into the market when it opens Tuesday. If the disappointment of last season isn't enough to push them in that direction, an extra $10 million of room under the salary cap should.

"If it's a significant player at some position you really covet, you go out and try to get him," general manager Jerry Reese said. "You go out right away and try to get him."

But where to begin?

That seems to be the more pressing question facing the Giants -- not if, but who -- as they start the process of shedding the disappointment of 2013 and attempt to rebuild for 2014 and beyond.

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With so few elements firmly in place -- Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and really not much else -- there are plenty of directions the team could go.

The shopping list is extensive: offensive linemen, running backs, receivers, tight ends . . . and that's just on offense! Go to the other side of the ball and the Giants likely will be looking to upgrade every position but safety.

With 25 of their own players hitting the market as unrestricted free agents and none of them as yet re-signed, the "significant differences" that Reese promised for the roster when he spoke at the combine last month appear to be coming to fruition.

The most glaring need for the Giants appears to be the offensive line. Co-owner John Mara declared that to be the primary focus this offseason, and the Giants like to bring in free agents to fill holes there.

Especially in the middle. Their last two starting centers, Shaun O'Hara and David Baas, both were added to the team that way. While Baas is coming off multiple surgeries and might be a June 1 cut, the top center on the market is Alex Mack from the Browns.

Other options on the interior of the line include the versatile Rodger Saffold from the Rams, who can play guard or tackle, or Geoff Schwartz from the Chiefs.

A year after signing free agent Brandon Myers, and two years after signing Martellus Bennett, the Giants again are in the market for tight ends. Next through the revolving door could be a familiar face to both the region and the new offensive coordinator. Uniondale product Andrew Quarless was a backup behind Jermichael Finley in Green Bay for four years, and although both are hitting free agency, Quarless comes with fewer question marks regarding health and age and likely will come for fewer dollars.

Ben McAdoo coached both in Green Bay, and either could provide a nice bridge between the old Giants offense and the new.

Although David Wilson seems to be making good progress after neck surgery, the Giants remain concerned about whether he will be able to play. After last year's botched youth movement in the backfield after the release of Ahmad Bradshaw, look for the team to add a veteran back. Ben Tate or Rashad Jennings would seem to be good fits.

There are plenty of other needs, and as those 25 unrestricted Giants start signing elsewhere, they'll create more gaps. Someone likely will have to replace wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and the Giants will have to find a starter at cornerback opposite Prince Amukamara. If they can't re-sign Jon Beason, they'll be on the lot kicking linebacker tires, too.

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That's a lot to accomplish. Don't expect it all to happen in the first hours of free agency.

Reese describes the process as coming in waves. Three of them.

"You have the first wave where teams are really hot for guys and they go out and secure them right away," he said. "Then you have a second level. Then you have a third level of free agency. You can get some bargains on the back end. But if you covet a guy and you have the money to go get him, go get him. We've done that in the past."

And they'll likely do that in the very near future.

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