but I figured it's never too early to get a jump on free agency. So every week, we're going to do one of these entries that examines some of the positions the Giants might consider addressing.
Remember, what they do in free agency will go a long way in dictating where they go in the draft. But keep in mind that any list is even more subject to change this year, given the near certainty of an uncapped year and the simple fact that some teams may lock up some of their talent before the opening bell the beginning of March.
Today we'll peruse the linebacker crop, or more specifically the inside linebackers. With the future of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce up in the air and the inexperience of an enthusiastic but raw Jonathan Goff, the Giants may well want to spend a few bucks shoring up that spot. But don't expect them to throw money wildly at any of the candidates. They've traditionally worked with a long-term budget, and not just because of the salary cap. Just because it's an uncapped season doesn't mean John Mara is suddenly going to turn into Daniel Snyder.
But here are a couple of guys worth paying a fair sum to.
KARLOS DANSBY: Yeah, I know. Everybody's talking about the 29-year-old Cardinal, and everybody wants him. Arizona may well sign him back, but if they don't he'll come out as one of the prizes of the free agent class. That means the Giants will have to beat out several teams who pursue this combination run-stopper and pass-rusher who feels comfortable in just about any front-seven alignment. He'd probably fit in real well with Perry Fewell's multiple-look philosophy, and he's certainly aggressive enough for the new defensive coordinator's liking.
BARRETT RUUD: This 27-year-old Buc will need a new CBA agreement to become an unrestricted free agent. If it doesn't happen, compensation in the form of draft picks would be required to pry him out of Tampa Bay. Don't think the Giants would want to go that route. But he's worth a look, anyway. The middle linebacker is regarded as a great tackler, something the Giants sorely need in the middle, and and he's been a defensive leader down there. There's a good chance he'll never hit the market in any form, as he is believed to be one of the Bucs' re-signing priorities.
DeMeco Ryans: Another guy who will be restricted in an uncapped year. He's been consistent for a fair Texans defense. He was second on the Texans with 123 tackles, but the 26-year-old didn't present much of a pass rush with just one sack. Still, just having a good run-stopper there would help the Giants immensely.
Kirk Morrison: He, too, will be restricted absent a new CBA. The 28-year-old Raider has started in the middle five straight years, and has made 100 tackles in each of those seasons. Chances are the Raiders will re-sign before anybody gets a crack at him.
SCOTT FUJITA: Danny Clark needs to go, so the 31-year-old Saints strongside linebacker might just do the trick. Obviously he's got some gas left in the tank. He finished up with 58 tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles. And hey, you can always use somebody off a Super Bowl roster, can't you?
KEITH BULLUCK: The 33-year-old Titans Pro Bowler has an Antonio Pierce type of fire, but he's old and now he's busted up. Still, he had a pretty good year on the strong side, making 108 tackles before he was placed on IR at the end of the season. Might make for a one-year stop-gap, if worst came to worst.
GARY BRACKETT: The 30-year-old plays in the middle and was the Colts' second-leading (by one) tackler with 99. He also had a sack and five breakups, which indicates he's got at least half a chance of successfully covering a tight end or running back. Can't believe Bill Polian will let him get away, however.
STEPHEN TULLOCH: Needs a new CBA. But at 25, this Titans middle linebacker is certainly young enough after leading Tennessee with 132 tackles. Also had two sacks and seven tackles for losses in just his second year of starting. A downhill defender with quick feet and good side-to-side movement.
Any other suggestions?