Two former Giants first-round picks signed free-agent contracts Thursday, one of them returning to the team and another joining forces with one of its fiercest rivals.
Kenny Phillips, a safety who spent five seasons with the Giants but whose play at times was curtailed by injuries to both knees, signed a one-year contract with the Eagles. At just about the same time, the Giants re-signed cornerback Aaron Ross, who earlier in the week had agreed to terms of his return to the team after one year with the Jaguars.
Ross was selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2007 draft out of the University of Texas. Phillips was taken 30th overall in 2008 from the University of Miami.
Phillips had the look of a budding superstar -- teammates and coaches even called him "Superman" for the way he patrolled the field -- until he missed most of the 2009 season after surgery to repair patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee. He returned the following season but was never the dynamic player he seemed to be on the path to becoming.
Last year he played in only seven games for the Giants because of a sprained MCL in his right knee, an issue unrelated to his previous condition.
Phillips had 263 tackles and eight interceptions as a Giant. The highlight of his tenure was knocking down Tom Brady's last-second pass attempt in the end zone to seal the Giants' victory in Super Bowl XLVI.
Stevie Brown emerged as a strong replacement for Phillips last season, so the Giants expressed very little interest in bringing Phillips back. They also added veteran Ryan Mundy to their safety depth by signing him to a one-year contract Thursday.
Phillips suggested that he, too, was looking for a fresh start when the 2012 season ended. That was not the case when Ross left the Giants a year ago, however. Even while he was signing a three-year contract with the Jaguars, he was plotting his return to the Giants.
"I talked to Mr. [Jerry] Reese when I signed with the Jags," Ross said of the Giants' general manager in a Giants.com video. "I told him I had a three-year contract and as soon as it's over, I'll be ready to come back home. That three-year contract ended a little earlier than I thought, and he made the call and I was more than excited to come back here."
Ross was released by the Jags last week after only one season. In five seasons with the Giants, he had 10 interceptions, two for touchdowns. He started in both Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.
"All my brothers are here, all the coaches are here," Ross said. "It just felt like home. I was ready to come back home."
Notes & quotes: The Giants agreed to terms with linebacker Keith Rivers on a one-year deal, according to sources. Rivers, a former first-round pick of the Bengals, played in only 11 games with six starts for the Giants last season because of injuries but should compete for a starting job this season with the release of Michael Boley . . . The Giants and tackle David Diehl are negotiating to rework his contract and reduce his salary. Diehl is due to earn $4.47 million in 2013, the final year of his current contract. No agreement has been finalized.