At the same moment the Giants began rebuilding their team for 2010 - 12:01 a.m. this morning, when free agency began - they also lost two starters from a defense that already had holes.
Veterans Danny Clark and Fred Robbins became unrestricted free agents at that moment, and the Giants, according to sources, have little interest in re-signing either.
Robbins, a defensive tackle and captain in 2008, was with the Giants for six seasons and had 25 sacks, including three straight years with 51/2. But he was slowed in 2009 after undergoing microfracture surgery on a knee he injured in a playoff loss to the Eagles at the end of the '08 season and lost his starting job in the last month of '09. He'll be 33 later this month.
Clark came to the Giants two years ago as a free agent in the afterglow of the team's Super Bowl championship. Originally a weak-side linebacker in his first offseason with the Giants, he moved to the strong side when the defense was realigned after the season-ending knee injury to Osi Umenyiora.
Clark remained there, started 26 games for the Giants and had two sacks in 2009, his first since 2005. He originally was drafted by the Jaguars when Tom Coughlin was the coach there. Clark will turn 33 in May.
The Giants have two other unrestricted free agents, both of whom they'd like to have back.
Punter Jeff Feagles is one of them, and although no decision has been made, some in the organization believe he will return for a 23rd NFL season. He turns 44 on Sunday.
The other is David Carr, the backup behind Eli Manning for each of the past two years. Carr, 30, has resurrected his attitude about football, if not his career, with the Giants, noting at times that he had lost his desire to play the game during his time in Houston and Carolina. The Giants will offer him a contract, but what they cannot offer him is playing time. There are reports that the Cardinals are very interested in signing Carr as a backup to Matt Leinart.
Last year, when he also was due to become an unrestricted free agent, Carr signed with the Giants before hitting the open market. This year he's at least willing to listen to other teams in order to find a place where he can compete.
Low tenders on LBs
While the Giants and league sources have made it clear that the team has no interest in high-priced free agents such as Karlos Dansby or Julius Peppers, they likely will take a serious look at two middle linebackers who are restricted free agents with relatively low tenders from their teams.
D'Qwell Jackson received a second-round tender offer from the Browns and Kirk Morrison received a third-round tender offer from the Raiders. Both are well below the tender offered to another middle linebacker who might have been on the Giants' radar: Barrett Ruud of the Bucs, who received a first- and third-round tender.
The Giants could make an offer to either Jackson or Morrison, but they would have to wait a week for the tendering team to either match their offer or accept the draft picks as compensation.
The Cardinals made it official Thursday, releasing safety Antrel Rolle and making him an unrestricted free agent. The Cardinals hope to get him back at less money, but the Giants' interest has been piqued by Rolle's availability.