Just because it's an uncapped season, don't expect the Giants to be throwing around money like it's 2009.
Last year they uncharacteristically cannonballed into the free-agency pool, splashing millions of dollars into contracts for Michael Boley, Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and C.C. Brown in an effort to solidify and deepen their defense. They even made a few overtures toward Albert Haynesworth.
None of those acquisitions produced anywhere near expectations in an 8-8 season, and the singe of the front-office gambles may be one of the reasons the Giants are not expected to be in hot pursuit of free-agent big-timers like middle linebacker Karlos Dansby or defensive end Julius Peppers.
Even though either of those players could help with issues that plagued the Giants last year - Dansby could take over for the released Antonio Pierce as an athletic center of the defense and Peppers would add a jolt to a highly-touted defensive line that had only 32 sacks and make unhappy Osi Umenyiora expendable - the team appears to be more focused on building through the draft and through the second tier of free agents.
If the Giants do sign a player or two this weekend, it's more than likely to be someone who even some hard-core fans will have to Google. Household names they will not be.
That doesn't mean there are not players available. Even in a thin unrestricted market diluted because of the expiration of the collective-bargaining agreement, there will be options. And general manager Jerry Reese, speaking at the combine last week, hinted that the Giants would explore some restricted free agents as well.
"It's a little different this time, but there's a lot of time during free agency, so you can get things done before the draft," he said.
The three areas that qualify as Giants needs are linebacker, safety and offensive line. With the release of Pierce and the team not expected to re-sign Danny Clark, the Giants will be without two-thirds of its starting linebacker unit from a year ago.
Reese called out the play of safeties Michael Johnson and Brown last week, suggesting they did not play well enough when budding star Kenny Phillips was lost with a knee injury. Phillips' return is said to be on schedule, although he is not yet running and the team, while optimistic, is not assuming that he'll be able to play an entire season or at the pre-surgery level because of the nature of his condition: patellofemoral arthritis.
"I don't think you can put all your eggs in Kenny's basket right now because that's a tough injury to come back from," Reese said, "so we'll try to be prepared if he doesn't come back 100 percent."
The Giants also appear intent on shuffling their offensive line and giving Will Beatty a chance to win the left tackle job. That would mean moving David Diehl to either guard (replacing Rich Seubert) or right tackle (replacing Kareem McKenzie). Of the two options, Diehl may be best suited for right tackle, so the Giants might dabble in guards during free agency or in the first half of the draft.
Of course, the kind of restraint expected from the Giants is the same that was expected last offseason. The team is coy at this time of year. But even Reese speculated that the uncapped year will not mean unlimited spending throughout the league. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"You always see some teams jump out there and make some moves," he said. "But with the uncertainty of everything going on, the unrest of everything going on, I think people will be cautious."