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Coughlin talks Tuck, Nicks

Tom Coughlin, left, talks with wide receiver Hakeem

Tom Coughlin, left, talks with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks during training camp in East Rutherford, N.J. (July 29, 2013) Credit: AP

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Justin Tuck and Hakeem Nicks are no longer Giants, and the idea that the team let them sign elsewhere as free agents without much of a financial fight – and in the case of Nicks, not even an actual offer – would have been astounding just a year and a half ago.

Tom Coughlin spoke about both players at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning at the NFL’s annual meetings.

First, he was asked if the Giants will miss Tuck’s leadership in the locker room.

"We’re going to miss Justin Tuck, period,” he said. “The body of work last year was very solid. He’s an outstanding young man … Justin has had two outstanding Super Bowls and playoff runs and played very, very well even as a young man playing with Osi [Umenyiora] and [Michael] Strahan, what he learned and how he performed, so, there’s no doubt.”

Tuck wound up signing a two-year, $11 million deal with the Raiders, a realm the Giants were not willing to venture toward.

“The last number was difficult,” Couglin said of Tuck’s price. “It was a most difficult number. We certainly were trying to extend our definite interest, but that was the case."

Still, Tuck suggested that he would have remained with the Giants for less. Coughlin said he wasn’t privy to the negotiations and not aware of the exact numbers.

“You always hold out hope that nobody goes, you don’t want to see anybody leave,” he said. “But it’s part of our game. When Justin, as an outstanding defensive end who had numbers to back it up in terms of the way he played, I’m not surprised by it … It was always realistic [to keep him]. It was realistic for sure, but it didn’t work. There are 31 other teams. The Raiders have a tremendous amount of money to spend.”

It didn’t take a tremendous amount of money to lure Nicks to the Colts, where he signed a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. A year ago, signing Nicks to a long-term deal seemed to be a priority for the Giants. So where did things go awry?

“I don’t know if it went awry,” Coughlin said. “The entire process of production continued to be not what it was a couple of years ago.”

Nicks suffered two leg injuries in 2012 that affected his stats, and then last year when he seemed to be healthy he went the entire season without a touchdown reception. There was also a perception that Nicks had other things on his mind concerning his future contract, such as his skipping out on voluntary OTAs last spring, his not playing in the all-important Cowboys game, and his sideline pouting when he took himself out of the game against the Packers.

Coughlin made it clear that those did not factor into any decision regarding Nicks, but also suggested that Nicks could benefit from a fresh start.

"I want everybody to know we wish Hakeem nothing but success, to return to the player that we really do believe and know that he is with consistency,” he said. “Maybe this is something that had to take place for Hakeem. Maybe he will deal with exactly where he is and once again return to the quality of player that he is. I wish him nothing but the best.”

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