Osi Umenyiora, Chase Blackburn leave Giants

New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiorawalks of

New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiorawalks of the field after the 36-25 loss to Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 9, 2011) (Credit: Joe Epstein)

Osi Umenyiora and Chase Blackburn, both key players in a pair of Super Bowl runs with the Giants and having a combined 18 years’ experience with the team, signed free-agent contracts elsewhere Wednesday. Umenyiora agreed to a two-year deal with the Falcons while Blackburn signed a two-year contract with the Panthers.

Umenyiora had left the door open for a return to the Giants, but many suspected he had his eyes on the Falcons. When they released pass-rushing defensive end John Abraham this offseason, the match seemed inevitable. Umenyiora visited the Falcons last week. He announced the deal Wednesday on Twitter.

Blackburn was offered a one-year deal at the veteran minimum from the Giants at the start of free agency, but his role seemed to be filled quickly when the Giants signed Dan Connor to play middle linebacker.

Umenyiora began his tenure with the Giants as a 2003 draft pick and a Pro Bowl player early in his career, but he saw reduced playing time in recent years as a pass-rush specialist coming off the bench. Blackburn began as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and was a backup and special-teams ace for most of his career. Late in 2011 after sitting out most of the season he was brought back to the team, stepped into the starting middle linebacker role, and helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI with a key interception. He held the starting job throughout 2012.

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