Justin Tuck has been a Super Bowl champion, a defensive captain, a stalwart in the community and a leader in the locker room. But now he is something that, until recently, he probably never imagined being.
Tuck is a former Giant.
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After nine years that included two championships with the team, the free-agent defensive end signed a two-year, $11-million deal with the Raiders Thursday.
Tuck received an offer from the Giants before the start of free agency, and according to sources, he gave the only NFL team he has ever known an opportunity to match the Raiders' offer. Had the Giants even come close, indications were that Tuck would have been back in New Jersey.
Instead, he's in Oakland.
"I absolutely did not see it coming," Tuck said on a conference call shortly after signing his new contract. "It wasn't necessarily on my radar at that point in time, but everything accelerated pretty quickly, and I'm excited. I really am. I like the direction that this team is talking about going in, and I just want to be a part of it."
Without Tuck, the Giants are down to four players on the roster who have rings from the most recent Super Bowl victories: Eli Manning, Chris Snee, Zak DeOssie and Mathias Kiwanuka.
The departure of Tuck leaves two voids for the Giants to fill. One of them is leadership. Tuck was an elder statesman in the Giants' locker room, one of the most respected players on the team. That role likely now will be filled by recently re-signed linebacker Jon Beason along with Tuck's former co-captain, safety Antrel Rolle.
More pressing is what it does to the Giants' defensive line, where Tuck was a mainstay for nearly a decade. With Jason Pierre-Paul coming off last summer's back surgery and a shoulder injury in 2013, Kiwanuka coming off a subpar year in terms of production, and second-year player Damontre Moore inexperienced and also coming off surgery, the Giants, long known for their ferocious pass rush, do not have a player who can be counted on to put fear in the eyes of opposing quarterbacks.
They also lost defensive tackle Linval Joseph to free agency -- he signed with the Vikings earlier this week -- which further weakens the line. Cullen Jenkins and second-year player Johnathan Hankins are expected to start in the middle.
Tuck said his goal is to win more Super Bowls. He had a good season in 2013, but that was preceded by two injury-affected down years. The Giants clearly chose to look at the two out of three and Tuck's age (he turns 31 this month) and determined that his best days are behind him.
Tuck sees it differently.
"Everyone talks about once you turn 30, it's all downhill," he said. "I don't believe in that. I don't look at myself in that regard. I feel like I have a lot of great football left in me."
Just not here.
"Obviously, everyone knows I love the New York Giants and I appreciate nine years of my career being there," he said, "but I just wanted a new, fresh start, and I think Oakland is definitely a good place to be."
Notes & quotes: The Giants signed fullback Henry Hynoski to a one-year contract. They had not tendered Hynoski as an unrestricted free agent, which allowed him to test the market. He had a visit with the Lions but re-signed with the Giants . . . The Giants agreed to terms with Jameel McClain, the former Ravens linebacker whom they met with last week. McClain is expected to sign his contract today . . . Hakeem Nicks told ESPN that he is visiting with the Colts Friday . . . The Giants had interest in wide receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr., but he signed a three-year deal with the Cardinals . . . Tight end Andrew Quarless (Uniondale) signed a two-year deal to return to the Packers. The Giants had shown interest in Quarless.