Osi Umenyiora knows the deal with Giants
The question used to be how the Giants would be able to divide up all the snaps to keep their glut of defensive ends happy. They figured out how to do that and won Super Bowl XLVI largely because of it.
The new question isn't about how to split up the number of plays but the amount of money.
It's a predicament Osi Umenyiora recognizes all too well. That's why he said he's holding no grudges that the Giants are skimping on his salary compared to the top players at his position in order to save up for future considerations.
"If I was them, I'd do the same thing," the 30-year-old defensive end said Monday, his first day of organized team activities this offseason and his first time in the locker room since restructuring his contract Friday.
"I mean, obviously you have [Justin] Tuck, who's the face of the franchise, and you have [Jason Pierre-Paul], who's a young phenom. Obviously I'm still a very good football player, but you can't pay us all that kind of money . . . All of us are All-Pro players. You can't pay us all like All-Pros. They had decisions to make and I completely respect them."
That leaves Umenyiora as the odd man out in terms of a long-term contract from the Giants. He'll play the upcoming season for nearly twice what he was scheduled to earn -- roughly $7.5 million -- and likely hit free agency for 2013.
Tuck and Pierre-Paul, meanwhile, almost certainly will hit the contract jackpot in the next few offseasons. Tuck's contract expires after the 2013 season, Pierre-Paul's after 2014.
"If I had to pay two defensive ends top defensive-end money, it would be JPP and Tuck," Umenyiora said. Asked how he would handle himself if he were general manager, he said he would allow himself to "seek his fortunes elsewhere."
That could happen. Umenyiora now is playing in a contract year and is, by all accounts, as healthy as he has been mentally and physically in several years. With the weight of his contract unhappiness lifted and the prospect of playing a full season without surgery, unlike 2011, Umenyiora should be able to put up the kind of numbers in 16 games that will give him the kind of numbers he wants in his next contract.
"I think it is just important for me to focus on this year and focus on helping this team win and being the best player I can be here,'' he said, "and we will see what happens after that."
Umenyiora wouldn't go so far as to say that the new contract represents fair market value for him. "It doesn't matter," he said. "I signed it, I'm here."
He also noted that his split with agent Tony Agnone last week was because Agnone would not allow him to sign a deal the agent deemed "substandard." Umenyiora said he will have Agnone represent him in future negotiations.
The deal that Umenyiora wound up signing had been on the table for a while. "It could have been done a long time ago," he said.
Ultimately, he said, it wasn't the money that brought him back but the reaction from his teammates in recent days during his standoff. Last week Tuck, Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Antrel Rolle all spoke publicly in support of Umenyiora.
"It just made me realize it was more important to have teammates like that and be on a team like this than fighting and haggling over a couple of extra dollars," he said.
"It really wasn't worth it . . . I felt like something special is being built over here. I'd much rather be here than continue to fight and face all the negativity and criticism over really what amounted to be nothing."